Friday, 14 June, 2024
HomeNews Update'Highly unlikely' that teenagers died from tavern generator fumes – Health Department

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

The results of the autopsy to determine the cause of deaths of 21 young people who died at Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London are likely to be made public before the mass funeral on Wednesday next week.

According to a HeraldLIVE report, a senior official in the Eastern Cape Department of Health’s forensic pathology services said: “It is highly unlikely that the cause of death was through fumes from a generator. But we are still waiting for toxicology results.”

Another senior official told Daily Dispatch that media reports identifying generator fumes as behind the deaths were "completely untrue and without basis".

This follows earlier reports that carbon monoxide poisoning was a possible cause of the tragic death of 21 teenagers on Sunday.

News24 reports that police crime scene experts found a petrol generator inside the venue where hundreds of young revellers partied from Saturday night into the early hours of Sunday morning.

It's unclear whether the petrol generator was running and how long it was on for.

However, witnesses and survivors who were at the tavern during the incident confirmed there was no power at the venue, although there was no load-shedding scheduled.

The chief medical officer at the East London mortuary, Dr Solomon Zondi, told the Mail & Guardian a gaseous explosion at the tavern could be linked to the deaths.

He did not rule out the possibility that the deadly substance could have been swallowed in drinks provided to patrons.

But he suggested a gaseous substance was released in the enclosed downstairs area – “this is where the pandemonium started” – and that people who were closest to the release epicentre were most affected.

Zondi said videos he had seen gave no indication of a teargas canister explosion, but people could be seen complaining of respiratory symptoms. During the post-mortem examinations, Zondo said he was cautious not to inhale any odour emanating from any of the bodies. At one stage his heart started racing as he examined a body.

“I was becoming dizzy and had to stop for a while,” he told the Mail & Guardian. “The children died of poisoning – the question now is whether it was inhaled or ingested.”

He confirmed investigators had ruled out a stampede as being responsible for any deaths. Instead, he said, the possibility should be investigated that a mist machine or a similar apparatus was used in the nightclub.

The Eastern Cape Health Department has confirmed forensic experts are doing a further analysis of samples it had sent to the University of Cape Town.

The department said it treated and discharged 16 survivors at its Empilweni Gompo Health Centre on Sunday.

On Monday, it called on the families of five of the 21 young people who had died to come forward and identify their bodies. At that stage only 16 had been identified.

Police Minister Bheki Cele has deployed a high-level delegation of crime scene experts from head office to support the Eastern Cape crime scene investigation.

The 12 girls and nine boys died mysteriously after attending a party at the Scenery Park venue where free alcohol, wifi and photoshoots were promised to attendees.

Scenery Park police were called out at about 4am on Sunday, after reports of lifeless bodies at the tavern. They found 17 dead children inside the double-storey building.

It was later established that two other people died at a local clinic, another died in hospital and another en route to a hospital.

Scenery Park settlement is a combination of state-built houses and shacks, and one of the most under-developed areas in the Buffalo City Metro.


News24 article – Tavern tragedy: Carbon monoxide poisoning suspected (Open access)

HeraldLIVE –generator-fumes-highly-unlikely-as-cause-of-death-at-enyobeni-tavern

News24 article – Health department calls on families to identify bodies of 5 who died at Enyobeni Tavern (Open access)


Mail & Guardian article – Gaseous explosion probably caused death of 21 young people at Eastern Cape tavern, pathology expert says (Restricted access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


How Iceland engineered the cleanest-living teens in Europe


Eastern Cape school study shows concerning HPV prevalence


Talking about drug use with your adolescent



MedicalBrief — our free weekly e-newsletter

We'd appreciate as much information as possible, however only an email address is required.