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South African authorities are probing whether 21 teens killed in mysterious circumstances at a nightclub over the weekend may have been accidentally poisoned by something they ate, drank or smoked.
Those who survived the horrifying ordeal at the popular tavern in the East London neighborhood early Sunday recalled a strong and suffocating smell in the building before the teens started 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 couches, and sprawled on the dancefloor of the club.
Authorities have already ruled out initial reports that a stampede killed the youngsters.
They have since sent forensic samples from the victims to a toxicology laboratory to investigate if the teens ingested poison or a toxin at the party.
“It is either something they ingested which will point to poisoning, whether its food or drinks, or it is something they inhaled,” an Eastern Cape police spokesperson said.
He added that hookah pipes were visible in surveillance footage of the scene.
“They died as they danced,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said Monday of the still unexplained deaths. “They dance, fall, and die. Literally.
“Others would just feel dizzy, sleep on the sofa, (and) die. It tells you the story that they were all kids because somebody should have taken note.”
The police chief said the teenagers died between 2 a.m. and 4.30 a.m.
“The sight of those bodies sleeping there … when you look at their faces you realize that you’re dealing with kids, kids, kids,” Cele said. “You’ve heard the story that they are young but when you see them you realize that it’s a disaster. Twenty-one of them. Too many.”
Some of the teenagers were reportedly celebrating the end of mid-year exams, a local DJ’s birthday and the relaxing of some of the last COVID-19 restrictions in South Africa, authorities said.
With Post wires