Health officials in South Africa have announced that the 21 teenagers who collapsed in a crowded tavern in June died of suffocation. However, many of the victims’ relatives have criticized the report and say they do not believe its findings.
According to Vice World News, officials informed families on Friday that a toxicology report into the deaths at the Enyobeni Tavern in East London, a coastal city, found that the patrons suffocated due to “friction” brought on by dancing in the crowded bar.
Aside from a short briefing given to parents, officials have not released the report into the tragic incident, citing legal reasons. It’s left the parents of the victims upset and questioning the credibility of the investigation into the deaths of their children.
“I don’t think they suffocated. Something else happened,” Khululekile Ncandana, the father of 17-year-old son Bongolethu, who died at the tavern, told the news outlet.
“We don’t trust this conclusion,” he said. “We are not happy about the way the authorities have handled it. We hope that they will call some of the survivors to testify about what really happened there.”
According to Siyanda Manana, a spokesman for the provincial health department, “Giving them the report is not our mandate.” He added that parents who want the document must submit a request for access to the records.
The announcement comes more than two months after the tragedy. It appears to contradict earlier reports about the potential cause of death.
People who survived recall a mysterious gas filling the room and a rush of people rushing for the stairwell and door to escape. However, South African authorities have ruled out carbon monoxide poisoning and a stampede as causes of the deaths according to the New York Times.
The deaths of these teenagers, aged 14 to 18, sparked a national conversation on underage drinking in South Africa. President Cyril Ramaphosa suggested raising the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 at a mass funeral for the teenagers.
The owners of the Enyobeni Tavern are due to appear in court later this week on charges of selling alcohol to minors.