South African authorities are investigating whether 21 teenagers killed under mysterious circumstances at a nightclub over the weekend may have been accidentally poisoned by something they ate, drank or smoked.
Those who survived the horrific ordeal at the popular East London tavern early Sunday recalled a strong and suffocating odor in the building before the teens began dying.
The bodies of many of the victims, the youngest a 13-year-old girl, were discovered by police lying on tables, slumped in chairs and sofas and sprawled on the club’s dance floor.
Authorities have already ruled out initial reports that stampede killed the youths.
They have since sent forensic samples from the victims to a toxicology lab to see if the teens ingested poison or a toxin at the party.
“It’s either something they ingested that indicates poisoning, be it food or drink, or it’s something they inhaled,” an Eastern Cape Police spokesman said.
He added that hookahs were visible in surveillance footage of the scene.
“They died dancing,” said Police Minister Bheki Cele on Monday about the unsolved deaths. “They dance, fall and die. Literally.
“Others would just feel dizzy, sleep on the sofa, and (and) die. It tells you the story that they were all children because someone should have noticed.”
The police chief said the teenagers died between 2 a.m. and 4.30 a.m
“The sight of those sleeping bodies … when you look at their faces, you realize you’re dealing with kids, kids, kids,” Cele said. “You’ve heard the story that you’re young, but when you see it you realize it’s a disaster. Twenty one of them. Too many.”
Some of the teenagers were reportedly celebrating the end of mid-term exams, a local DJ’s birthday and the easing of some of South Africa’s recent COVID-19 restrictions, authorities said.
With postal wires