South African police have arrested three people in connection with the tragic deaths of 21 partygoers in an East London tavern in June.
The arrests include the 52-year-old bar owner for allegedly serving underage attendees alcoholic drinks.
The shocking tragedy occurred June 26th, when dozens of young individuals at the Enyobeni nightclub reportedly “collapsed” in what was initially thought a stampede.
However, South African investigators have since ruled out the stampede theory.
Some of the victims of this tragedy were as young as 13, police said.
One 16-year-old partygoer described seeing others in the nightclub suddenly “drop like flies” after gathering to celebrate the end of high-school midterm exams, according to the BBC.
South African police have arrested three people in connection with the deaths of 21 partygoers in an East Cape nightclub in June, including the 52-year-old owner of the venue. https://t.co/eVNNfqVh19
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) July 14, 2022
Speaking to the BBC, one 16-year-old attendee described seeing others at the nightclub suddenly “drop like flies” after gathering to celebrate the end of high-school midterm exams.https://t.co/wGKGLlnrwu
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) July 13, 2022
Via the BBC:
They died mysteriously after collapsing, and police are still investigating the cause.
The victims were found strewn across the floors and tables.
The suspects, including the Enyobeni tavern owner, were detained in connection with allegedly selling alcohol to underage children.
The liquor licence board filed a complaint with the police following the deaths.
The owner of Enyobeni, aged 52, is due to appear in court next week, while two of his employees have been given the option of paying a fine of about $120 (£100) for allegedly selling alcohol to people under the age of 18.The other two people who were arrested are aged 33 and 34.
The youngest of the victims, who were at a party to celebrate the end of mid-year exams, was aged just 13 and most of the others were younger than 18, so should not have been allowed in the venue.
“The venue was packed. Entrance was free… and free alcohol was also being dished out. We started drinking and having fun with others,” a 16-year-old girl who did not want to be named previously told the BBC.
“They were dropping like flies,” she said, describing the deaths.
The toxicology report is yet to be concluded.
However, pathologists suggested the deaths may have been caused by something they inhaled or ingested.
One survivor reported a suffocating smell, according to AFP.
Survivors have described a battle to escape the jam-packed venue, with one reporting a suffocating smell.
The police have yet to wrap up their investigation, and although officials have ruled out a stampede, autopsy results have not yet been made public.
“Just as we said in the beginning, investigation is a process and needs to be treated with extreme care and wisdom so that we can achieve the desired outcomes,” Eastern Cape provincial commissioner Nomthetheleli Mene said in a statement.
At a memorial service last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa blamed the deaths on the “scourge of underage drinking” and vowed to crack down on “unscrupulous” bar keepers who flouted regulations.
However, the exact cause of this tragedy remains unclear.
“We do not know yet exactly what killed our children. But we do know that the law was broken that night, and probably many nights before then,” Ramaphosa said at the memorial service.
The Daily Beast added:
Another survivor, 19-year-old Sinovuyo Monyane, told AFP that “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.’”
Footage taken on that harrowing night showed busy crowds moving through Enyobeni tavern shortly before the deaths, with loud music blaring shortly before reports surfaced that something had gone terribly wrong at around 4 a.m. local time.
In the aftermath of the reports, family members and loved ones of those in attendance began to gather outside the venue, which had been cordoned off by police, with some even trying to force their way through the gates in an effort to get to the victims.