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Owner of Eastern Cape tavern 'devastated' after inexplicable deaths of patrons

The death toll in the Eastern Cape tavern tragedy has been revised to 17.
The death toll in the Eastern Cape tavern tragedy has been revised to 17.
Image: 123RF/FERNANDO GREGORY MILAN

The owner of the Enyobeni tavern in Scenery Park in East London where at least 17 patrons inexplicably died in the early hours of Sunday is reportedly devastated by the incident. 

Eastern Cape community safety MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe said: “I have met with him and he is very much devastated. He said he cannot explain how the incident took place.” 

Tikana-Gxothiwa told eNCA the tavern owner had since been advised to close his business until a full investigation is conducted and concluded.

“He has welcomed the advice and will close until further notice,” Tikana-Gxothiwe said.

Police are still unclear on the circumstances surrounding the early morning mass deaths.

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Brig Tembinkosi Kinana said detectives are on the scene trying to piece together events.

Kinana said a press release would be issued later on Sunday, but that the initial investigation showed 17 people had died in the incident.

Bodies were seen lying bizarrely as if they collapsed to the floor suddenly while dancing or in the middle of a conversation

The victims who died were aged between 18 and 20 years, he said, scotching speculation the revellers were under-aged.

The Daily Dispatch reported that family members who suspected that their children were among the victims were gathered outside the tavern but were barred from entering the premises,

The publication said initial speculation was that the patrons were either exposed to some form of poison as none of the bodies they could see had any visible injuries. 

Bodies were seen lying bizarrely as if they collapsed to the floor suddenly while dancing or in the middle of a conversation. Other bodies were seen slumped across chairs and lying over tables.

Tikana-Gxothiwa said it was “a sad day for the province”. 

While the earlier death toll had been placed at 22, she explained that 17 people had died on the scene while three others had died in hospital. 

Two remained in hospital in a critical condition. 

Families of the deceased were yet to identify them.

Tikana-Gxothiwa  said the families who believed their children were among the victims would be ferried to the mortuary for the identification process, saying it would be chaotic to do this at the scene. 

Police minister Bheki Cele was headed to the Eastern Cape where he was to join other government officials, including premier Oscar Mabuyane who was already on the scene.  

This is a developing story. 

TimesLIVE


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