WATCH | Inside Enyobeni tavern, where carefree teens partied until tragedy struck

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  • A trail of devastation and chaos is what remains inside the Enyobeni tavern, where 21 teens died in June. 
  • With the stench of alcohol still lingering in the air, discarded shoes and abandoned handbags give a glimpse into the night when tragedy struck.  
  • A mass funeral will be held for the children on Wednesday, with President Cyril Ramaphosa among those in attendance.

Traces of blood, a strong alcohol smell, broken bottles, weaves, abandoned handbags, discarded shoes and shattered glass portray a scene of great panic and chaos.

This is what greeted News24 on a visit to Enyobeni tavern in Scenery Park, East London, where 21 teens - 12 girls and nine boys, aged 13 to 17 - lost their lives on Sunday, 26 June.

Early photographs of the scene showed the teens slumped on the floor, the detritus of an evening of partying, which formed a sombre low boundary line against the walls inside the bar.

Police withdrew from the tavern last Thursday, and handed it back to its owners after spending four days extracting forensic evidence from the scene.

READ | 'Help, I am dying': Man who tried to save teens from Enyobeni tavern tragedy haunted by victims' screams

Owners Vuyokazi and Siyakhangela Ndevu wearily set about removing the remains of the alcohol stock still left in the tavern, packing it on to the back of a bakkie.

They did not want to speak to the media, as men packed the crates on the bakkie and tied it down with ropes.

The tape from police cordons were removed and, after much begging, journalists were for the first time allowed to take a look inside the double-storey building where, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele, the teenagers died as they danced.   

A colourful disco light cable still flashed eerily next to the dancefloor upstairs.

Almost all of the windows were broken, confirming the interviews with shocked survivors who managed to use the windows as an escape route.

They told News24 that a stampede broke out after patrons realised that some people had died. Electricity had also gone out, but it was not as a result of load shedding, they said. 

READ | Metro gives Scenery Park a facelift as tavern tragedy pushes township into the spotlight

The incident has thrust Scenery Park into the global spotlight. 

Questions have also been raised as to how it was possible for such young children to be in a tavern.

Most of the parents of the victims told journalists they had no idea their children were out partying. 

Some of the teens had used the age-old ruse of telling their parents they were sleeping over at friends, or at a cousin's place. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa said the tragedy was made even more grave by its occurrence during Youth Month – a time during which young people are celebrated and advanced.

In the meantime, the grieving parents of the children are steeling themselves for a mass funeral service at the Scenery Park Sports Field on Wednesday.

Police officers surrounding Enyobeni tavern
Enyobeni tavern was still guarded by a strong police presence.
News24 Malibongwe Dayimani

The service is expected to get under way from 09:00, with Ramaphosa and Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane among those in attendance.

READ | Eastern Cape tavern tragedy: They danced, fell and died - Bheki Cele

Until the official forensic results are released, theories abound as to how the children died.

Police sources told News24 that a portable petrol generator was used inside the venue.

Forensic expert in PPE entering Enyobeni tavern
A forensic expert enters Enyobeni tavern.
News24 Malibongwe Dayimani

The fumes of the petrol generator may have caused the victims to die of carbon monoxide poisoning, preliminary investigations suggest.

The Eastern Cape health department said it had treated 16 survivors of the tragedy for tight chests, vomiting, backaches and headaches.

It is understood that about 400 young people, mostly schoolgoing children, attended the event at the tavern.

The Eastern Cape Liquor Board has opened a criminal case against the owners of the tavern, for allegedly selling alcohol to under-age people. 

No arrests have been made.

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