One of the American tourists found dead at an upscale resort in the Bahamas was “bigger than life” and “the greatest,” according to a neighbor.
Vincent Chiarella, 64, was one of three Americans found dead under mysterious circumstances at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort on Exuma, with his wife, Donnis, 65, airlifted to a hospital in serious condition.
“Of all the people in the Bahamas, why did Vince have to go?” Genice Moneyham, a neighbor of one of the couple’s homes in Florida, asked WJHG News.
“To lose him — because he was such a big life in this community — we all just don’t even know how to feel right now,” the neighbor said of the Chiarellas, who were also tied to Alabama and were at the exclusive resort celebrating an anniversary.
“We’re so sad about that because he was bigger than life. He was life. He lived every moment like it was his last,” said Moneyham.
The couple was so well known in the Panama City Beach community that new arrivals were told they have “to meet Vince and Donnis, they’re the greatest people,” Moneyham recalled.
“And when I did, I understood exactly what they were talking about,” she told the local outlet.
Another neighbor, Charlotte Greathouc, told the station that the late husband and his wife were always “so outgoing and always welcoming.”
“They went to celebrate their anniversary … such tragic news, it’s just still unbelievable,” she told the station.
Donnis Chiarella remained in serious condition in a hospital, officials in the Bahamas said. She had awoken in their villa Friday finding herself unable to move and her husband unconscious on the floor, their son Austin previously told ABC News.
“I am just so heartbroken right now,” he told the outlet. “My dad was everything to me.”
Officials on Monday identified a married couple from Tennessee, Michael Phillips, 68, and Robbie Phillips, 65, as the other couple found dead in a separate villa in the resort. The couple had three children and six grandchildren.
Samples taken from the victims were sent to a lab in Philadelphia, with results of the toxicology study expected in about a week.
When asked what he thinks might have caused the tourists’ deaths, the police commissioner of the Bahamas, Paul Rolle, said: “I’m not going to speculate.”
He noted that all four tourists went to a doctor the night before their bodies were discovered and they had complained of feeling ill. He said they went at different times and had eaten different things.
Meanwhile, Sandals Resorts said it would not comment further beyond its original statement, which noted that it is supporting the investigation and the families of those affected.
“Out of respect for the privacy of our guests, we cannot disclose further information at this time,” the company said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price also said the US was “closely monitoring local authorities’ investigations into the cause of death, and we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”
With Post wires