21 Teens Who Died in Bar Ingested Toxic Form of Alcohol

Methanol investigated as possible cause of death in South African tragedy
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 19, 2022 11:13 AM CDT
21 Teens Who Died in Bar Ingested Toxic Form of Alcohol
A body is removed from a nightclub where 21 teenagers died in the early hours of June 26 in East London, South Africa.   (AP Photo/File)

(Newser) – The toxic chemical methanol has been identified as a possible cause of the deaths of 21 teenagers at a bar in the South African city of East London last month, per the AP. Methanol was found in all of their bodies, and investigations are continuing to determine whether the levels of the toxic chemical were enough to have killed them. "Methanol has been detected in all the 21 individuals that were there; however, there is still progressive analysis of the quantitative levels of methanol and whether it could have been the final cause of death," Dr. Litha Matiwane, Eastern Cape provincial deputy director for clinical service, said at a Tuesday press conference.

Methanol is a toxic form of alcohol that's used industrially as a solvent, pesticide, or alternative source of fuel. It isn't used in the production of alcohol sold for human consumption. It's not yet known how the youngsters ingested the methanol, though some witnesses said a security guard sprayed the crowd with something. Authorities are still awaiting the conclusive results, which are being conducted at a laboratory in the city of Cape Town, Matiwane said. Alcohol poisoning and inhalation of carbon monoxide have both been ruled out as possible causes of death, although traces of both were detected in the bodies of all 21 victims, he added.

The underage teenagers died at the Enyobeni tavern in East London's Scenery Park township in the early hours of June 26, shocking the country and resulting in several investigations by the police and liquor license authorities. South Africa's police will be guided by the final results of the toxicology analysis to determine whether anyone will face criminal charges for the 21 deaths, said Bheki Cele, the nation's national police minister. The owner of the tavern and some employees were arrested and are currently out on bail as they face charges related to the violation of liquor trading laws, including the sale of liquor to children. (Read more South Africa stories.)

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