US families’ plea: What did they eat

David and Michelle Paul died of a mysterious illness while vacationing in Fiji. Picture: SUPPLIED/ABC News

“PLEASE help us.”

This is the plea of an anguished father to the Fijian public as he tries to make sense of his only daughter’s unexpected and tragic death while holidaying in Fiji last month.

“Any of you folks who saw or served Michelle anywhere during the two days she was in Fiji, please come forward so it can help with the investigations and help us too in piecing some of the missing links,” said Marc Calanog.

“For the restaurants and diners in Fiji too, if you served my daughter, please help us. What you share could be important. I hope people can step up and allow for a free flow of information.”

Michelle Paul, 35, died on May 25 after she and her husband, David, 38, fell gravely sick two days after arriving in Fiji.

David succumbed to the mysterious and yet to be named illness two days later.

Mr Calanog said knowing what the couple ate was important as investigations are now testing for toxins — focusing on the herbicide paraquat — after ruling out influenza and infectious diseases.

“I hope to have access to their hotel bill too so I can see what meals they took there.”

David’s mother, Marsha Cutlip Paul, said after being told by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that tests were now being carried out for toxins, she began to “wonder where they ate”.

“David was very good about taking pictures of where they were eating, and the food, to send to my husband. If they took pictures, they are still in their phones,” she said.

She said dealing with the loss was difficult because she thought about how “David and Michelle were having such a good time and something happened to kill them”.

David and Michelle sent their families a “happy birthday” video shortly after they arrived, where David was serenaded by staff members of a restaurant.

Mrs Paul said all of the couple’s personal belongings were still in Fiji, including their phones which the families wanted back.

“I don’t know who has them.”

Mr Calanog said he had spoken to a police officer and had asked that they ship the phones as soon as possible.

“I don’t know whether this has been done yet. Now that infectious diseases have been cleared, I hope they send the phones over.”

When asked about the whereabouts of the belongings, a senior executive of the property they were staying in said “as the investigation is still ongoing, we are unable to provide more information. We are deeply saddened by this incident and have been working closely and in full co-operation with the authorities on their investigations,” the executive said.

Police spokeswoman Ana Naisoro said “all comments are being made by the Health Ministry”.

Health Minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete did not respond to queries on the families’ questions about the personal belongings and phones.

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