Couple detained at Punta Cana airport claim household product was mistaken for cocaine

A Waterloo couple is grateful to be back home after they say they were detained for several hours at a Punta Cana airport, accused of carrying drugs.

Jamie and Dan Yanke travel to Dominican Republic often and said they never had a problem until earlier this month – changing the way they will travel forever.

The couple said their luggage was flagged at the airport before they boarded their flight back to Waterloo.

Jamie said she and several other passengers were taken in for questioning. She said that is where she learned their luggage was being inspected for an illegal substance.

“When we walked into the room there was a white substance on the table,” said Jamie. “They explained that they will be testing the product for cocaine on a cocaine test wipe.”

Couple blames household product

Jamie had packed a bag of DampRid, a moisture absorber. Jamie describes it as a white crystalized product that could look like cocaine.

The test results came back positive.

“I remember turning to Dan and saying ‘am I going to a Dominican jail tonight?” said Jamie.

DampRid seen in their Waterloo home. (CTV News/Tyler Kelaher)

Former police officer reacts

Scott Blandford, a public safety professor and former police officer said there’s been a huge drug problem moving through several Caribbean countries including in the Dominican Republic.

“You are not in Canada anymore. You’re going to be liable and susceptible to their laws,” said Blandford.

False positive

After being released, the couple said they paid around $1,000 out of pocket to get home the next day.

Now the couple wonders how a household product could be mistaken for illegal drugs.

“They were going to detain us based on a wet wipe,” said Dan.

The couple said they purchased the same test kits police used and claim the DampRid caused a false positive when they tried it at home.

Last month the University Of Pennsylvania released a study showing that presumptive field drug test kits are known to produce false positive errors and were never designed or intended to provide conclusive evidence.

The Yankes said the experience has changed the way they’ll prepare for airport security in the future.

Next time they go on vacation, any questionable product will stay at home.

CTV News reached out the Punta Cana International Airport for comment but did not hear back.

A photo of the cocaine detection wipe at their Waterloo home. (CTV News/Tyler Kelaher)

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