Family attorney: Mexican resort served ‘tainted’ alcohol to 20-year-old American tourist before she drowned

Published 24 June 2019 by Diaz Reus

The attorney for the family of 20-year-old tourist Abbey Conner, who drowned after drinking alcohol at a Mexican resort, said Thursday that the alcohol was “tainted” and her parents are now filing a new lawsuit against the resort.

Attorney Gary Davidson, who is representing Conner's family, made the comments on “America’s Newsroom,” acknowledging that her family thinks her drowning death more than two years ago could have been avoided.

The lawsuit comes as another popular vacation spot, the Dominican Republic, is making worldwide headlines because of a rash of deaths of U.S. tourists – many of whom became suddenly and critically ill at their hotels.

“It was a very sad situation,” Davidson said referencing Conner’s death after she visited the resort in Mexico.

“Abbey's a 20-year-old who goes with her family down to the resort and what happens next is she’s served alcohol along with her older brother in a swimming pool that has a swim-up bar and the next thing we know is that there’s an emergency call placed to security as a result of another tourist finding Abbey in the swimming pool drowning and her brother fighting for his life, also injured,” Davidson said.

“That's what this case is all about.”

In January 2017, Bill Conner and Virginia McGowan made plans to take a family vacation with their kids, Abbey and Austin, in Mexico and chose the Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar in the popular hot spot Playa del Carmen.

Hours after arriving at the hotel, Abbey and Austin, who had been served a drink by the pool, were drowning. Abbey was found face-down in the pool, and her brother was in the shallow end. Abbey died and her brother survived.

“Abbey was ultimately flown from Mexico after being in two different hospitals there. She was flown from Mexico to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she was evaluated. Two days after flying, being flown into Florida, she passed away,” Davidson said.

Abbey Conner had only been at Iberostar Paraiso Del Mar for a few hours when her family says hotel staff served her and her older brother Austin “tainted” alcohol at a hotel pool.

“We have alleged that the hotel knew that tainted alcohol was being processed through the hotel, through the bar areas, and we believe that and we've asserted that in the lawsuit,” Davidson said.

“The lawsuit has just begun. We look forward to taking depositions of various people who are on staff to establish those facts.”

After the tragedy, and local news reports that many other tourists had fallen critically and suddenly ill at Mexican all-inclusive resorts, Mexican authorities raided 31 establishments.

They seized almost 100 gallons of alcohol that violated health and safety regulations. And they found that much of the alcohol contained methanol, which is often used in windshield washer fluid. Abbey Conner's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging that the resort allowed alcoholic drinks that were "tainted, substandard, poisonous," and "unfit for human consumption" to be served.

“What we know is that there is -- there was and perhaps still is going on, we don't know, a pandemic of service of tainted alcohol throughout the Mexican resorts, specifically in the Riviera Maya area, although other areas may have been affected,” Davidson said.

“Those raids, we think, were the tip of the iceberg and we strongly believe that this problem was known to Mexican authorities, was known to hotels and resorts.”

Davidson added that he thinks the hotels and resorts “either turned a blind eye or intentionally encouraged this sort of behaviour” in an effort to save money.

Davidson said, “At an all-inclusive resort of course alcohol, unlimited alcohol, is available to guests. What better way to save money, conserve resources, than to serve non-first quality alcohol?”