PODCAST | The Story: We unpack the Eastern Cape tavern tragedy

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Enyobeni tavern where 21 young people died from unexplained circumstances in the early hours of Sunday morning in East London.
Enyobeni tavern where 21 young people died from unexplained circumstances in the early hours of Sunday morning in East London.
  • The tavern tragedy in the Eastern Cape claimed 21 lives in the early hours of Sunday morning.
  • It was reported that the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from a petrol generator.
  • A mass funeral will be held for the deceased, aged 13 to 17, next week.

An emotional Police Minister Bheki Cele addressed community members and the media outside an East London mortuary on Sunday, where 21 bodies were sent after mysteriously dying in a tavern in the early hours of Sunday morning.

He described the horror of visiting the scene earlier that morning.

He witnessed the lifeless bodies collapsed on the floor or in seated positions as if they had just fallen asleep.

"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," he told the media. 

The deceased were mostly teenagers.

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

On Wednesday, the Eastern Cape provincial government confirmed that autopsies had been performed on the 21, with samples sent to a lab in the Western Cape for investigation.

"The report will be shared with the affected families as soon as investigations have been concluded," the statement said.

A source close to the investigation told News24 on Thursday that carbon monoxide poisoning had emerged as a possible cause for the deaths.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Cape Liquor Board (ECLB) opened a criminal case against the owner of the tavern for selling alcohol to minors.

News24 reported on Thursday that the double-storey building could also be knocked down because plans for its construction were never submitted or approved.

The owner of the tavern declined to comment and said he'd been "harassed" by journalists.

This week, on The Story, we talk to News24 reporter Malibongwe Dayimani, who has been covering the story closely.

We'll also hear from a forensic pathologist, Dr Hestelle van Staden, who'll explain how carbon monoxide poisoning affects the body and, ultimately, causes death.

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