21 Teenagers Who Died in South African Tavern Were Suffocated, Families Told
A general view of Enyobeni, an east coast tavern where bodies of youth were found which prompted nationwide grief ahead of a mass funeral in the Eastern Cape province, in East London, South Africa, July 5, 2022. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

EAST LONDON, South Africa (Reuters) – Twenty one young people who died in a tavern tragedy in June were suffocated, five parents said on Thursday, relaying to reporters what health department officials told them was the conclusion of an official probe.

The youths — the youngest of whom was a 13-year-old girl — died in June while partying in a popular nightspot in a township outside the coastal city of East London, Eastern Cape province, and the grieving relatives had been demanding answers.

A health department spokesperson for the Eastern Cape province declined to comment on the results of the investigation and told reporters the probe would not be published.

Multiple causes for the death of the teens had been flagged in past weeks, including poisoning from what they may have eaten or drunk.


“The report has come out but I’m not happy about it,” said Xolile Malangeni, whose 17-year-old daughter, Esinako, was among the victims. Xolile and others complained that the results were communicated by the authorities to them verbally.

It is unclear what caused the youths to suffocate. Local news TV eNCA reported on Thursday that asphyxiation had been caused by overcrowding.

In June, a source close to the investigation told Reuters the young people may have died by poisoning from a gas leak.

The owner of the bar has been arrested, and charged with supplying minors with alcohol.

(Reporting by Johnnie Issac; Writing by Tim Cocks and Francesco Guarascio)