Family speaks out for 1st time after woman dies at Mexico resort

ABCNews logo
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Wisconsin family talks after daughter's death at Mexico resort
Mexico is a popular destination for people in Chicago, especially during the winter months.

NEW YORK -- The family of a young woman who mysteriously died after being served alcohol during a vacation at an upscale Mexican resort is speaking out for the first time as they search for answers.

"You protect your child from so much since they're born, and then you know, something happens in an instant," mom Ginny McGowan said.

Ginny and husband John McGowan are desperate for information as to how their daughter, 20-year-old Abbey Conner, ended up floating facedown in a pool, breaking her collar bone and slipping into a coma just two hours into their vacation at a five-star resort.

Mom and stepdad John were booked at the Iberostar Paraiso Resort in Playa del Carmen, and they became alarmed when Abbey and 23-year-old son Austin didn't show up for dinner.

"Probably the most excited person was Abbey," Ginny said. "We just sat on chairs at the side of the pool, and we're like, we're going to go up and get ready for dinner. You guys need to meet us in the lobby at 7:30."

Austin and Abbey stayed by the pool.

"We swam around for a little bit and decided let's celebrate with a drink," Austin said. "So we go up to the bar, and another group that was already there start talking...we didn't know them. The bartender pours out a line of shots, and I take one, and everyone else does. And the last thing I remember was like we are right now, sitting here talking, and lights went out. And I woke up in the ambulance."

The family says a guest found Abbey and Austin floating face down in the waist-deep pool, and soon, they were on the way to the hospital. But Ginny and John had no idea.

"It was getting close to 8, and I'm starting to get worried," Ginny said. "I said, I just, I need to call their room because I can't contact them any other way to find out where they are. And she said is your husband here with you. And I'm like, well, yeah, he's sitting right over there. And then she went and got the general manager and quickly brought me to John, explained that there had been an accident."

Abbey was brain dead, while Austin had a concussion and a golf ball-sized lump on his head. Abbey was flown to a Florida hospital, where she later died.

"She was on the right path, a good path for her," Ginny said. "And she she was happy."

Authorities said their blood alcohol level was .25, three times the legal limit in their home state of Wisconsin. Austin says he can't remember how many shots he had.

"I've thought about it, and I mean it is a possibility (we drank too much)," he said. "But how, if we're in a group of people, do two people at the same exact time just pass out in the pool and no one sees it?"

The family is questioning if tainted alcohol -- a toxic mix of cheap ingredients -- could be partially to blame. Other families have since come forward, recalling how they suddenly blacked out after a few drinks during visits to resorts in Mexico.

Mexican officials say they've seized 1.4 million gallons of tainted alcohol from Mexican businesses -- including resorts, clubs, bars, warehouses, and manufacturers -- in the past seven years.

The Iberostar resort denies serving tainted alcohol, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that "we only purchase sealed bottles that satisfy all standards required by the designated regulatory authorities...We are deeply saddened by this incident and reiterate our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family."

The family has hired an attorney and plans on suing the resort.

"I hope she didn't suffer at all, and I hope she's at peace," Ginny said. "We miss you."