South African police have arrested three people in connection with the deaths of 21 revelers at an East Cape nightclub in June, including the venue’s 52-year-old owner, for allegedly serving alcoholic beverages to minors.
The shocking mass death event took place on the night of June 26, when dozens of youngsters at the Enyobeni nightclub reportedly “collapsed” in what local authorities initially suspected was a stampede. Some of the victims were as young as 13, police said.
South African investigators have since ruled out the stampede theory, but toxicology reports on the dead have not yet been made public.
Speaking to the BBC, a 16-year-old attendee described seeing others at the disco suddenly “dropping like flies” after gathering to celebrate the end of high school mid-term exams. She described the event as a free-for-all event, adding that “the venue was packed. Admission was free…and free booze was handed out as well. We started drinking and having fun with others.
According to local media, some attendees reported a “suffocating smell” in the tavern as one youngster after another fell to the ground or onto the tables.
Another survivor, Sinovuyo Monyane, 19, told AFP that “we tried to move through the crowd shouting ‘please let us through’ and others were shouting ‘we are in dying, guys’ and ‘we’re suffocating’ and ‘there are people who can’t breathe.’ »
Footage taken on the harrowing night showed bustling crowds moving through Enyobeni’s tavern shortly before the deaths, with loud music blaring shortly before reports surfaced that something had gone horribly wrong. badly gone around 4am local time.
Following the reports, family members and relatives of those present began to gather outside the venue, which had been cordoned off by police, some even trying to force their way through the gates to try to reach the victims. .
Although the exact cause of the deaths remains unclear, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to take action to stop the “scourge of underage drinking” in the country.
“We don’t yet know exactly what killed our children. But we know the law was broken that night, and probably several nights before that,” Ramaphosa said at a memorial service for the victims last week.
As well as the bar owner, two other men working on site, a 33-year-old man and a 34-year-old man, were arrested over the incident this week.
The owner is due to appear in court on August 19, according to AFP.