(PresidentialHill.com)- South African authorities are still investigating what happened at a nightclub in the coastal town of East London Sunday morning when 21 underage teenagers died while celebrating their end-of-school exams.
By Tuesday, the details behind the mysterious deaths began to take shape as survivors described a strong and suffocating odor in the packed two-story building, leading investigators to suspect a possible gas leak as the cause.
Police also sent forensic samples from the victims to a toxicology lab to investigate the possibility that the teens ingested some kind of toxin at the party.
Initially, it was believed that the mass death may have been caused by a stampede, but that has now been ruled out.
One survivor, 19-year-old Sinovyuo Monyane, who was working at the Enyobeni Tavern that night, said people in the crowd were struggling to breathe. She said there was a “strong smell” like something had been sprayed into the air.
Monyane lost consciousness and later woke when someone sprayed her with water. Afterward, she saw “bodies lying around” and people dousing them with water to try and revive them.
One official told AFP that investigators suspect that the teenagers either ingested or inhaled something that caused them to react. The official said the teens were smoking through hookah pipes and drinking alcohol at the party.
It is illegal in South Africa for anyone under the age of 18 to consume or buy alcohol. The Eastern Cape Liquor Board said this week that it was revoking the nightclub’s liquor license and would be pursuing criminal charges against the license holder.
In total, 12 boys and nine girls died in Sunday’s incident.
A police spokeswoman said the investigation is ongoing and as yet, no cause of death has been established.