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They danced and died: Tragic teen party mystery in South Africa

No cause of death established yet for 21 teenagers

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Yandiswa Ngqoza, with family members after identifying her daughters at the Woodbrook Mortuary in East London, South Africa Monday, June 27, 2022. South African authorities are seeking answers after 21 underage teenagers celebrating the end of school exams died in a mysterious weekend incident at a nightclub. The bodies of many of the victims were discovered by police lying on tables, slumped over chairs and sprawled on the floor of the club in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Yandiswa Ngqoza, with family members after identifying her daughters at the Woodbrook Mortuary in East London, South Africa Monday, June 27, 2022. South African authorities are seeking answers after 21 underage teenagers celebrating the end of school exams died in a mysterious weekend incident at a nightclub. The bodies of many of the victims were discovered by police lying on tables, slumped over chairs and sprawled on the floor of the club in the early hours of Sunday morning. (AP Photo) (Associated Press) Photo Gallery

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South African authorities were seeking answers Monday, a day after 21 underage teenagers partying after the end of school exams died in a mysterious incident at a nightclub. The bodies of many of the victims, the youngest a 13-year-old girl, were discovered by police lying on tables, slumped in chairs and couches, and sprawled on the dancefloor of the club in the early hours of Sunday morning.

“They died as they danced,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said. “They dance, fall, and die. Literally. Others would just feel dizzy, sleep on the sofa, (and) die. It tells you the story that they were all kids because somebody should have taken note.”

Speculation has swirled over the cause of the tragedy, starting with a stampede — that has now been ruled out — to a possible gas leak. Police have sent forensic samples from the victims to a toxicology laboratory to investigate if the teens ingested poison or a toxin at the party.

Police said they were called to the Enyobeni Tavern in the city of East London in Eastern Cape province at around 4 a.m. Sunday morning after receiving a report that there were “lifeless bodies” there. Officers responding to the call walked in on a grim scene: 17 of the teenagers were found dead in the nightclub. Two more died at a local clinic, one died on the way to another hospital and one at that hospital. Their ages were between 13 and 17, police said.

Police spokeswoman Col. Athlenda Mathe said an investigation was ongoing and no cause of death had yet been established.

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