A family of four was found dead in their holiday apartment while on holiday in Tulum, Mexico, police confirmed.
Kevin Wayne Sharp, 41, his wife Amy Marie Sharp, 38, and their children Sterling Wayne, 12, and Adrianna Marie, 7, were reported missing by their immediate family members early on Friday morning to police in Creston, Iowa.
The Sharps had planned to return to the US on Wednesday, family members said.
Police quickly made contact with the US state department, Creston police said in a statement. A welfare check at the property where the family was believed to be staying led to the discovery of the four bodies.
Autopsies are being performed in Mexico. It is not immediately clear what led to the Sharp family’s deaths, but Creston police chief Paul Ver Meer told KCCI that there were no signs of traumatic injury.
Local Mexican authorities have taken over the investigation, according to the state department. The Mexican Tourism Board said in a statement obtained by CBS that “preliminary reports from local officials conclude that there were no signs of violence or struggle”.
Ashli Peterson, a relative of the Sharps, posted about the family’s disappearance on Facebook on Thursday night, around the time that the family contacted police. The post was shared hundreds of thousands of times. On Friday afternoon, Ms Peterson posted an update.
“Please respect the family at this time as they go through the grieving process,” she wrote. “Thank you for all the posts, shares and kind words.”
Kevin Sharp was an avid stock car racer known as “The Sharpshooter” in the local racing scene and he often competed in events in his neighbouring county, Cliff Baldwin, his friend and fellow racer, told the Des Moines Register. He said he knew Mr Sharp and his family his entire life, and that he and Mr Sharp shared a love for the University of Iowa and the Kansas City Chiefs.
“He was a great personal friend,” Mr Baldwin said. “It’s hard to talk about. The more I think about him and the family, the harder it is.
“Creston is close-knit like all small towns in Iowa,” he added. “He’s a big part of that community there.”
Sharp and his family left the United States for Cancun, Mexico, on 15 March, according to Ms Peterson’s post. The family then rented a car and drove to Tulum, where they were renting an apartment, according to Amy Sharp’s sister, Renee Hoyt, who spoke with the Creston News Advertiser.
It was the family’s second time in Mexico, according to Amy Sharp’s cousin, Jana Weland, who told ABC News that the family had planned to meet up with some friends at a water park.
But “they never showed up at that water park to meet them”, Ms Weland said.
The Sharps had informed their family members on 15 March that they had arrived safely in Tulum. So when family members didn’t hear from them on Thursday – after they were supposed to have arrived back home – they became worried.
Ms Hoyt, Amy Sharp’s sister, told the Creston News Advertiserthat Mr Sharp’s phone was tracked using Apple’s Find my iPhone app, which it pinged in Mexico. The phone had not moved from its location since Thursday morning.
Relatives of the Sharp family could not be immediately reached for comment.
The family’s mysterious deaths come amid increased travel warnings to Quintana Roo state, which is home to Tulum – a popular destination for those looking to explore Mayan ruins or snorkel in limestone sinkholes. The state department issued a level two advisory to those travelling to Quintana Roo on 16 March, meaning visitors should be cautious because of increased crime there. Department officials cited a spike in Quintana Roo’s homicide rate since 2016.
Last month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an investigation that identified more than 150 reports from travellers who said they blacked out or became violently ill after having just one or two drinks at dozens of Mexican resorts in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Puerta Vallarta and Los Cabos. It is unclear whether those tourists were deliberately drugged or became random victims of tainted alcohol, according to the investigation.
Another Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation from November looked at repeated instances where the travel and restaurant review website TripAdvisor removed posts warning of alleged rape, assault or other injuries at some Mexican resorts. And a July investigation into the death of a Wisconsin college student in Mexico uncovered widespread safety issues, including those tied to tainted alcohol at Mexican resorts.
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