Five people die after drinking home-made concoction

2009-10-15 00:00

MYSTERY surrounds the deaths of five people who died after drinking a homebrewed concoction at Terrance Park near Verulam, north of Durban.

Another three people are in a serious condition at Osindisweni Hospital after binge-drinking the concoction through the night.

The group fell ill in the early hours of yesterday morning after drinking several bottles of the concoction, which has not yet been identified.

It is believed that a group of at least 10 people spent Tuesday night drinking inside an abandoned shop in the Hilltop area. A case of Smirnoff vodka bottles was found inside the shop; the seals of the bottles had been broken and police believe they were used to store the home-brewed liquor.

Several bottles were found lying inside the building.

Prem Balaram of Reaction Unit South Africa said a resident called him about a group of people who had become seriously ill and had to be taken to hospital.

The caller told him that a 16-year-old boy had already died and that the body was lying inside the shop.

“When one of my guards arrived on the scene, he found that the victims had been drinking a clear liquid from Smirnoff bottles,” he said

Balaram said that home-brewed liquor is popular in the poverty-stricken area.

“We have reason to believe that the man who owned the house is among the dead. At this stage, we are not sure where the group got the liquor from.

Keiran Ramjogi, a local security guard who responded to the incident, said that when he arrived at the scene, police had already seized the case of alcohol and placed it in a police van. The body of the 16-year-old lay near the door of the shop.

“I looked inside the van and counted 24 bottles in total. The bottles were filled to the brim, but the seals were cracked. It’s difficult to say what liquid was inside,” he said.

He said that police have cordoned off the shop. However, he could see chairs and bottles inside.

Community leader Vish Roopnarain said the community is shocked at the deaths.

He urged the police to conduct raids on illegal ta­verns and shebeens that have become a problem in the area.

“These are a major problem. There is a concern that more and more taverns and shebeens are springing up in the area,” he said.

Police spokesman Superintendent Vincent Mdunge confirmed the deaths.

He said a fourth survivor, who declined to be hospitalised, is in a serious condition at home.

Mdunge said that while he cannot confirm whether the concoction was home-brewed or not, it was not the original Smirnoff vodka.

An inquest docket has been opened, but Mdunge said that this would soon be changed to a culpable homicide charge.

The contents of the bottles will be sent for forensic ana­lysis.

The department of Health has launched an investigation into the deaths and will comment only after a report has been released.

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