New details emerge after mysterious deaths of 21 teenagers who partyed at the nightclub in South Africa: “I ran out of breath”

South African authorities continued to seek answers on Tuesday, two days after 21 underage teenagers partyed after graduating from school died in a mysterious incident at a nightclub. But new details emerged when survivors spoke of a strong and suffocating odor in the crowded two-story building.

The bodies of many of the victims, the youngest a 13-year-old girl, were discovered by police lying on the tables, collapsed in chairs and sofas and spread on the dance floor of the club early Sunday morning.

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

“Others just wanted to feel dizzy, sleep on the couch (and) die. It tells you the story that they were all children because someone should have noticed.”

Speculation has been swirling around the cause of the tragedy, starting with a storm – which is now ruled out – to a possible gas leak. Police have sent forensic samples from the victims to a toxicology laboratory to investigate whether the teenagers ingested poison or a poison at the party.

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

She said she struggled to escape through a door that was locked with people.

– We tried to move through the crowd and shouted “please, let us through”, and others shouted “we are dying, boys” and “we are about to suffocate” and “there are people who can not breathe”, she told AFP. .

“I fainted at that moment. I was out of breath and there was a strong smell of a type of spray in the air. We thought it was pepper spray,” she said.

She later regained consciousness after someone sprayed water on her.

“I got up and realized that there were corpses all around. I saw people who were completely watered, but these people did not even move,” she said in a telephone interview. “I could have died.”

Forensic experts work outside a tavern to kill teenagers in East London, South Africa, June 26, 2022.

Oluthando Mthimkhulu / Xinhua via Getty Images

A member of the bar staff, Sifiso Promise Matinise, told AFP that he sprinkled water on the unconscious people to revive them, and thought they were drunk, before realizing what had happened.

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

Special investigators from Pretoria have been rushed to the scene, but no one has been arrested so far.

“Investigators are continuing to search for possible clues and answers at Enyobeni Tavern,” said regional police spokesman Thembinkosi Kinana.

“Lifeless bodies”

Police said they were called to the Enyobeni Tavern in the city of East London in the Eastern Cape province around 4am on Sunday morning after receiving a message that there were “lifeless bodies” there. Officers who answered the call entered a gloomy scene: 17 of the teenagers were found dead at the nightclub. Another two died at a local clinic, one died on the way to another hospital and one at that hospital. Their age was between 13 and 17, police say.

Police spokeswoman Colonel Athlenda Mathe said that an investigation is underway and that no cause of death has yet been determined.

But Cele said forensic samples were sent to an advanced toxicology laboratory in Cape Town, indicating that police were looking into the possibility that poison or a toxin was involved. Cele said toxicological tests can take “a lot of time.”

“The suspicion is that it is either something they have ingested through drink, food or something they inhaled,” Unathi Binqose, a public security official, told AFP.

Provincial security official Unathi Binqose told the Daily Maverick newspaper that the victims may have ingested a toxic substance through alcohol they drank or through hookahs, which were smoked at the party. Initial reports speculated that the victims – 12 boys and nine girls – may have died in love due to overcrowding at the party, but authorities found no visible signs of bodily harm, and police have now ruled it out.

The teens are said to have celebrated the end of exams in the middle of the year, the birthday of a local DJ and the relaxation of some of the latest COVID-19 restrictions in South Africa, which were announced earlier this week.

Parents were asked to come to a morgue to identify their children. The Eastern Cape Department of Health said survivors were being treated at the hospital for back pain, tight breasts, vomiting and headaches.

Police Minister Cele said the teenagers died between 02.00 and 04.30 on Sunday morning. He had also visited the nightclub and the morgue on Sunday and choked to tears while talking to journalists outside the morgue.

“The sight of the bodies sleeping there … when you look at their faces you realize that you are dealing with children, children, children,” Cele said. “You’ve heard the story of them being young, but when you see them you realize it’s a disaster. 21 of them. Too many.”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is in Germany for the G-7 summit, apologizes to the families of the victims in a statement, but also said he was concerned about why “such young people were gathered in a place that, on the front of it should be prohibited for persons under 18 years of age. “

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to consume or buy alcohol in South Africa, and the Eastern Cape Liquor Board said they are revoking the nightclub’s liquor license and will prosecute the club’s licensee. The tragedy will re-examine the many bars and nightclubs that operate in the alleys of poor neighborhoods in South Africa, and which are often criticized for not complying with alcohol laws.

AFP contributed to this report.