A “school’s out” celebration in South Africa turned out to be anything else when at least 21 teenage party-goers were found dead in a nightclub with no injuries or any other apparent cause of death!
The bizarre mystery took place in Johannesburg at a nightclub in the coastal town of East London – and now, two days later, authorities are still unsure of what caused nearly two-dozen teens to dance and then seemingly just drop dead!
Local newspapers reported that bodies were strewn across tables and chairs without any visible signs of injuries. At first, a health department spokesperson, Siyanda Manana, said, “At this point, we cannot confirm the cause of death.”
However, new details have since emerged as survivors spoke of a strong and suffocating smell in the jam-packed double-story building.
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 dance floor of the club in the early hours of the morning of June 26.
Police said they were called to the Enyobeni Tavern in the city of East London in Eastern Cape province at around 4 a.m. Sunday morning, after receiving a report that there were “lifeless bodies” there. Officers responding to the call walked in on a grim scene: 17 of the teenagers were found dead in the nightclub. Two more died at a local clinic, one died on the way to another hospital, and one at that hospital. Their ages were between 13 and 17, police said.
“They died as they danced,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said. “They dance, fall, and die. Literally.”
“Others would just feel dizzy, fall asleep on the sofa, (and) die. It tells you the story that they were all kids because somebody should have taken note.”
Speculation has swirled over the cause of the tragedy, starting with a stampede — that has now been ruled out — to a possible gas leak. Police have sent forensic samples from the victims to a toxicology laboratory to investigate if the teens ingested poison or a toxin 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 gridlocked with people.
“We tried moving through the crowd, shouting ‘please let us through,’ and others were shouting ‘we are dying, guys,’ and ‘we are suffocating’ and ‘there are people who can’t breathe,'” she told the Associated Foreign Press (AFP).
“I passed out at that moment. I was running out of breath, and there was a strong smell of some 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 bodies lying around. I saw people being poured water, but those people did not even move,” she said in a phone interview. “I could have died.”
A member of staff at the bar, Sifiso Promise Matinise, told AFP he sprinkled water on the unconscious people to revive them, thinking they were drunk, before realizing what had happened.
“I saw two people collapse; they died,” he said.
Parents were asked to come to a mortuary to identify their children. The Eastern Cape health department said there were survivors being treated in the hospital for backache, tight chests, vomiting, and headaches.
Special investigators from Pretoria have been rushed to the scene, but no arrests have been made so far.
“The investigators continue to search for possible clues and answers at Enyobeni Tavern,” regional police spokesman Thembinkosi Kinana said.
This is a developing story.