A British traveller has died and two friends are fighting for their lives in hospital after travelling to Turkey for a quick trip and to get cut-price dental treatment.
Richard Molloy, 33, died on Saturday after travelling to Marmaris, but his cause of death remains unknown.
His friends, Declan Carson and Aaron Callaghan, were in comas but their condition has now improved and they were taken off life support machines.
Police were attempting to trace the dentist where the trio, who were described as “three fit and healthy young lads”, are understood to have undergone a tooth whitening procedure.
Local sources reported the trio had collapsed in their rented holiday apartment after taking a drug they were given prior to the whitening work.
It is reported one of the men sought help from the hotel’s manager as one them was taken ill, before all of them were then hospitalised.
But investigators also refused to rule out other possible causes, including illegal drugs, and there was no suggestion the dental medication caused the tragedy, reports Sozcu.
Richard’s family are said to be “devastated” by his death and have flown to Turkey, with North Belfast MP John Finucane saying all families involved are “desperately wanting to bring their children back”.
Just three days before the tragedy, Aaron had shared a picture of the pals basking in the sun by the sea.
“How’s your Friday,” he wrote.
Mr Molloy and his friends were all from Ardoyne, North Belfast, where their families were in shock last night.
Aaron’s parents, Karen and Mark Callaghan, arrived at Milas-Bodrum airport on Sunday evening and dashed straight to their son’s hospital bedside.
Mr Callaghan said, “Our son is getting better, he can talk, but Declan’s situation is not clear yet.”
Aaron was said to have recovered sufficiently to make a statement to police, but officials declined to release details.
The trio stayed in Marmaris for the first four days of the trip before moving to an Irish-owned hotel in the Bodrum resort’s tourist district, Gumbet.
Hotel staff raised the alarm when one of the men called reception saying his friend had passed out after taking a drug.
All three were initially taken by ambulance to a private hospital, where Richard died.
His unconscious friends were moved to a larger hospital in Mugla, where their condition was described as critical before they began to recover.
They were later transferred to the Adnan Menderes hospital in nearby Aydin and were said to be no longer in “life-threatening” condition.
Serkan Oncu, chief doctor at Adnan Menderes hospital, said, “The health condition of the young men under treatment is currently improving.”
Colin Bell from the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust is assisting the family in bringing Mr Molloy’s body home.
He said: “It’s a very difficult situation. The young fellow died out in Turkey after travelling with his two friends.
“I understand they had been travelling out for dental treatment, we don’t know how it happened but it ended up with Richard dying and the other two lads being seriously ill.”
“At this stage his sister has flown out and she’s been put in touch with the funeral company who are looking after Richard’s repatriation.”
In a post on Facebook, hair salon Simon Flannery Male Grooming paid tribute to Richard saying he had been a customer for a decade.
“Richie was a true gentlemen and always brought a smile and laughter to the salon,” the post read. “Everyone who works and has worked in the shop and met Richie will miss his dearly.
“Our thoughts are with Richie’s family and friends.”
North Belfast Sinn Fein MP John Finucane described the incident “absolutely heartbreaking” and said it had affected “three fit and healthy young lads”.
Mr Callaghan is a former player for St James’ Swifts Football Club near his home.
A message of support on the club’s Twitter page read: “Our thoughts and prayers go out to former first team player Aaron Callaghan today.
“Everyone at the club are thinking of you during this time and we have both you (and) your friends within our hearts.”
Former manager Pat McAllister said: “I just found out the news on Saturday and am in complete shock.
“Aaron is a complete gentleman and someone I get on really well with. All I can do is send him my best wishes and I really hope he pulls through.
“I was told they had taken a trip to get dental work done. I don’t know the other two lads but all I can do is send my condolences to the family, it’s absolutely horrific.”
Both the British and Irish governments are in contact with Turkish counterparts because it is understood that two to the men travelled on Irish passports.
Turkey has a booming cut-price medical and dental tourism industry – from teeth whitening to organ transplants and heart surgery.
Up to 700,000 people have visited the country for medical procedures and operations, according to the Istanbul International Health Tourism Association.
The Association of Turkish Travel Agencies said that by 2023 it hoped to attract 2 million health tourists to the country.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission