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Enyobeni tragedy: Methanol detected in bodies of teen victims

Was methanol the lethal ingredient in the free “alcohol” which enticed teenagers to the Enyobeni Tavern on that tragic night? Methanol, a toxic alcohol used in industrial solvents, fuels, fertilisers and many other products, was found in the blood of all 21 victims who died as they danced on the night of 26 June.

The 21 teenagers died mysteriously after attending a party at the Scenery Park, East London, venue where free rounds of alcohol, wifi and photoshoots had been promised to attendees.

Although a natural alcohol, methanol is not an ingredient in the alcohol we drink. Liquor is made with ethanol. Both liquids are clear and colourless.

Eastern Cape Health DG Dr Litha Matiwane announced the finding when police and health officials met the parents on 19 July, reports TimesLIVE, where he said while methanol was found, they did not know if this were the cause of death.

Tissue and blood samples had been sent to the laboratory in Cape Town, where they also tested for alcohol and carbon monoxide poisoning but found the levels were not high enough to cause death.

“We are looking for other chemicals – formic acid being one. Formic acid is a byproduct of methanol and (if found) can tell us more about the levels of toxicity. We are also processing gastric and bowel tissue to see if there are other activities,” said Matiwane.

In the meantime, he said, the liquor board had opened a case of contravention of the Liquor Act, and the tavern owner and some employees have been arrested.

On the Monday after the incident Police Minister Bheki Cele spoke at the Rural Safety Summit in Parys, in the Free State, where he said the children started dying from about 2.13am.

“Those kids died as they danced. They danced and fell and died, literally. And they were pushed to the side and others kept dancing. Others felt dizzy and fell asleep on the sofa and died. Somebody should have done something. These kids were supposed to be under parental supervision.”


TimesLIVE article – Enyobeni: Authorities unclear how methanol entered bodies of deceased, and if it was enough to kill (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Ramaphosa urges action to curb teen drinking after tavern tragedy


'Highly unlikely' that teenagers died from tavern generator fumes – Health Department


Talking about drug use with your adolescent




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