21 Teenagers Were Found Dead in a Bar. No One Knows How They Died.

The teenagers' bodies were found in a nightclub and bar in the South African town of East London, with reports saying they had no visible wounds or signs of injury.
Dipo Faloyin
London, GB
People comfort a family member of dead teenager outside a mortuary in East London, South Africa.
People comfort a family member of dead teenager outside a mortuary in East London, South Africa. Photo: Oluthando Mthimkhulu/Xinhua via Getty Images

Twenty-one teenagers were found dead Sunday morning in a South African nightclub in East London, a town in the south of the country. 

Local authorities have launched an investigation into the sudden deaths, which are believed to have happened at an end-of-exams celebration. 

The victims, who were aged 13-17, were found by police at around 4AM in the city’s Enyobeni Tavern. The bodies, some sprawled across tables at the tavern, had no visible wounds.

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Initial reports suggested the victims had died as a result of a crush as partygoers tried to force their way into the packed venue. But that theory has since been ruled out by authorities after they examined the bodies for injuries and found none. 

Police have not ruled out that the teenagers may have been poisoned. 

“Forensic [investigators] will take samples and test to see if there was any poisoning of any sort,” Unathi Binqose, a local safety government official, told AFP. 

In a tweet on Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa offered his “deep condolences” to the families of the victims. 

“My deepest condolences go to the families of the 22 teenagers who lost their lives at a tavern in Scenery Park, East London, in the early hours of this morning,” Ramaphosa wrote

“This tragedy is made even more grave by its occurrence during Youth Month – a time during which we celebrate young people, advocate and advance opportunities for improved socio-economic conditions for the youth of our nation.”

Editor's note: There is still some confusion in South Africa about how many bodies were found at the scene. While initial reports said there were 22 victims, it is now believed there were 21.