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21 Teenagers Mysteriously Die in South African Nightclub; Cause Still Unclear

South African police are investigating the mysterious deaths of at least 21 teenagers, the youngest possibly just 13-years-old, who died this weekend at a bar in the coastal town of East London.

The tragedy occurred Sunday morning at the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, a working-class community in East London city.

Many of the teens are thought to have been students celebrating the end of their school year, according to officials. 

According to the provincial government of Eastern Cape, eight girls and 13 boys died. Seventeen were found dead inside the bar, while the rest died at the hospital.

Parents of the teens, including parents whose children were missing, gathered outside the bar on Sunday morning as mortuary vehicles removed the bodies. 

A family member at the scene. Photo: Reuters

Although the cause of the deaths is still unclear, local officials and politicians said they feared this might have been a case of under-age drinking that went tragically wrong. Police said there were no visible wounds on the bodies and they have ruled out the possibility of a stampede. Autopsies would determine if the deaths could be linked to poisoning, officials said.

National Police Minister Bheki Cele, broke down in tears after leaving the morgue where the bodies were being stored.

“It’s a terrible scene,” he told reporters. “They are pretty young. When you are told they are 13 years, 14 years and you go there and you see them. It breaks (you).”

A 17-year-old student who was present at the bar when the tragedy unfolded told Al Jazeera News that she and a few of her friends attended the party because they were told that two local soap opera “celebrities” would be hosting it. 

The young woman, whose name has been withheld for safety purposes, said she waited for her parents to go to sleep before sneaking out and heading to the bar.

She said early Sunday morning the bar became overcrowded and people were asked to leave. When the partygoers didn’t comply, one of the security guards closed the door and began spraying a substance into the crown, she said. 

“The man at the door, I think he was a bouncer, he closed the door and we couldn’t breathe. We suffocated for a long time and [were] pushing each other but there was no use because some people were dying,” she said.

“It smelled like gas. I’m not sure if it was tear gas or pepper spray. Then some people died and I also fell asleep for three hours. Then when they woke us up, they also thought I was dead,” she continued.

She said when she awoke, her leg was numb and she could not stand up on her own. She then asked a patron to call her aunt so that she could be picked up.

The distraught teenager says two of her friends died in the bar that morning.

Eastern Cape executive council member Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe told local broadcaster eNCA on Sunday, that the bar owner, Siyakhangela Ngevu, “has welcomed the advice to close his establishment and will close until further notice” while investigations take place.

In response to inquiries about potential criminal charges against the bar owner, Police Minister Bheki Cele said, “We have an experienced team that is complementing the provincial team to ensure that we get to the bottom of what has led to the death of these young people. We are also engaging other stakeholders to investigate issues of compliance to liquor legislation.”

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6 comments

Martell June 27, 2022 at 4:57 am

Wheres the mystery? didnt the girl explain what happened? so sad

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Abdula June 28, 2022 at 8:05 am

Cant confirm until autopsy tho

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Shelly m June 28, 2022 at 12:01 pm

IKR

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Unknown June 27, 2022 at 11:59 am

Organ harvesting!! Watch those kids bodies! And they are talking about having to bury them in mass graves? They are stealing their organs !!! WAKE UP!!!

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Mecca124 June 28, 2022 at 10:02 am

Was that bouncer arrested?? Why close the door and spray them this seems like they were planning somehoign

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joseph attia June 28, 2022 at 11:58 am

So tragic praying for the families 🙁

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