New details emerge after the mysterious death of 21 teenagers partying in a South African nightclub: “I was running out of breath”

New details emerge after the mysterious death of 21 teenagers partying in a South African nightclub: "I was running out of breath"
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South African authorities were still searching for answers on Tuesday, two days after 21 underage teenagers went out partying after school exams ended. died in a mysterious incident in a night club. But new details emerged as survivors spoke of a strong, suffocating odor in the overcrowded two-story building.

The bodies of many of the victims, the youngest a 13-year-old girl, were discovered by police strewn on tables, slumped on chairs and sofas, and dumped on the club’s dance floor in the early hours of Sunday morning. .

“They died while dancing,” said Police Minister Bheki Cele. “They dance, they fall and they die. Literally.”

“Others just got seasick, slept on the couch and died. He tells you the story that they were all kids because someone should have taken notice.”

Speculation swirled about the cause of the tragedy, from a stampede – which has now been ruled out – to a possible gas leak. Police sent forensic samples from the victims to a poison lab to investigate whether the teens ingested poison or a toxin at the party.

Sinovuyo Monyane, 19, who was hired by the bar to promote a brand of alcohol, said she was still “confused” but felt lucky to be alive.

She said she struggled to escape through a crowded door.

“We tried to move through the crowd, shouting ‘please let us through’, and others shouting ‘we’re dying boys’, ‘we’re suffocating’ and ‘there are people who can’t breathe,'” he told AFP. .

“I passed out at that point. I was getting out of breath and there was a strong smell of some kind of spray in the air. We thought it was pepper spray,” he said.

He later regained consciousness after someone sprayed water on him.

“I got up and realized there were bodies lying around. I saw them pouring water on people, but those people weren’t even moving,” she said in a phone interview. “I could have died”.

Forensic experts work outside a tavern over the death of teenagers in East London, South Africa, on June 26, 2022.

Oluthando Mthimkhulu/Xinhua via Getty Images

A bar staff member, Sifiso Promise Matinise, told AFP he sprayed water on unconscious people to revive them, thinking they were drunk, before realizing what had happened.

“I saw two people collapse, they died,” he said.

Special investigators from Pretoria were flown to the scene, but no arrests have been made so far.

“Investigators continue to search for possible clues and answers at the Enyobeni tavern,” regional police spokesman Thembinkosi Kinana said.

“Dead Bodies”

Police said they were called to the Enyobeni public house in the city of East London in the Eastern Cape province at around 4am on Sunday after receiving a report that there were “dead bodies” there. Officers responding to the call were met with a grim scene: 17 of the teens were found dead in the nightclub. Two more died at a local clinic, one died on the way to another hospital, and one died at that hospital. Their ages ranged from 13 to 17, police said.

Police spokesman Col. Athlenda Mathe said an investigation was underway and the cause of death had not yet been established.

But Cele said forensic samples were being sent to an advanced toxicology lab in Cape Town, indicating police were looking into the possibility that poison or a toxin was involved. Cele said toxicology tests could take “a long time.”

“The suspicion is that it is something they ingested through drinks, food or something they inhaled,” Unathi Binqose, a government official in charge of security, told AFP.

Provincial security official Unathi Binqose told the Daily Maverick newspaper that the victims may have ingested a toxic substance through the alcohol they were drinking or through hookah pipes, which were being smoked at the party. Initial reports speculated that the victims, 12 boys and nine girls, might have been crushed to death due to overcrowding at the party, but authorities found no visible signs of injury on the bodies and police have now ruled that out.

The teens were reportedly celebrating the end of mid-year exams, a local DJ’s birthday, and the relaxation of some of South Africa’s latest COVID-19 restrictions, which were announced earlier in the week.

Parents were asked to go to a morgue to identify their children. The Eastern Cape health department said survivors were being treated in hospital for back pain, chest tightness, vomiting and headaches.

Police Minister Cele said the teenagers died between 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. She had also visited the nightclub and morgue on Sunday and held back tears as she spoke to reporters outside the morgue.

“The sight of those bodies sleeping there… when you look at their faces you realize you’re dealing with children, children, children,” Cele said. “You’ve heard the story that they’re young, but when you see them you realize it’s a mess. Twenty one of them. Too many.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is in Germany for the G-7 summit, expressed his condolences to the families of the victims in a statement, but also said he was concerned why “so young they were gathered in one place although it should be out of reach for people under 18 years of age”.

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to consume or purchase alcohol in South Africa and the Eastern Cape Liquor Board said it was revoking the nightclub’s liquor license and would bring criminal charges against the club’s license holder. The tragedy will put new scrutiny on the many bars and nightclubs that operate in the back streets of South Africa’s slums and are often criticized for not abiding by alcohol laws.

AFP contributed to this report.

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