ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rick Autrey is finally back to work at the Garden Plaza Barber Shop, a three-chair spot in an Arlington strip mall he opened in 1994.
But for the past three months, Autrey has endured an agonizing recovery after a Mexican vacation that turned into a living hell his first afternoon there.
"We landed, and literally I had been down there for less than four hours, and something happened. It's a very dangerous place," says Autrey.
In May, Autrey and another friend traveled to the country's east coast and Riviera Maya for a quick stay at an all-inclusive resort.
Autrey says after having a few rum and cokes spaced out over a few hours, he was suddenly found floating in one of the resort's pools.
"They threw me on the swim-up bar and started CPR," he says, recounting what witnesses later told him happened.
A few hours later, and with his friend being forced to pay more than $10,000 up front, the father and husband was unconscious in a Mexican hospital.
Soon, his wife was by his bed, and no one had a clear picture of what had occurred.
"They said, 'You've had an accident and you're in the hospital.' I remember being stunned thinking, 'Why in the world are you down here?'" he said.
After the hospital in Cancun kept demanding cash or a credit card for care, the family soon decided to fly Rick home with help from a friend with access to a medical jet.
It wasn't long before the Autreys started asking questions that apparently had no good answers.
"I read about the Conner girl, and it made the hair on my arms stand up because it was so scary similar to what happened to me," says Autrey.
Abbey Conner, only 20, died in Mexico earlier this year after she and her brother were found unconscious in a resort pool. Her Wisconsin family has continually insisted tainted alcohol played a role in her drowning.
Mexican officials recently seized 10,000 gallons of illegal booze destined for tourist hotspots around Cancun.
As a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Investigation revealed, Rick's case is just one of a growing number where random blackouts occurred after a few drinks.
"I've had friends going to Mexico for years, and they've never had a problem. But this is different," says Rick, who says the recent government raid indicates even they think there is a surge in illegal hooch.
"If you don't have the glass you're drinking out of, or the bottle they pour it out of, you have no case really," says Rick.
So far, his family says the entire ordeal has cost just shy of $57,000. Insurance has only paid a fraction of that.
They said they tried to get help from U.S. officials in Mexico, but that didn't go anywhere.
Autrey says his goal now is simply to force tourists to think twice.
"I'm thankful for the people that pulled me out," he says. "But it can be a very dangerous place."
This week, the U.S. State Department issued a new warning for tourists traveling to Mexico because of elements associated with "organized crime."
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