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Eastern Cape tavern deaths - owner conveys his sympathies to victims’ families

Police forensic investigators outside the tavern in the Eastern Cape where 21underage children were found dead. Picture: Bheki Radebe / African News Agency / ANA

Police forensic investigators outside the tavern in the Eastern Cape where 21underage children were found dead. Picture: Bheki Radebe / African News Agency / ANA

Published Jun 27, 2022

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Durban - An Eastern Cape tavern owner has conveyed his sympathies to the families of the 21 children who died at his tavern in Scenery Park in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Enyobeni tavern owner, Siyakhangela Ndevu, said he was alerted to the incident by security guards. Speaking to eNCA news, he said he had been visiting his brother at an initiation school when he was informed of the chaos at the tavern in Scenery Park.

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"The place was very chaotic, it was full of children and young boys. It was full right up to the gate with some children forcing themselves in with security guards finding it hard to control the situation," he said.

The cause of the death of the 21 youngsters are still unclear with rumours that it was the result of a stampede caused by pepper spray being used in the venue.

But safety officials in the province have reportedly ruled out that the tragedy was caused by a stampede.

Government safety official Unathi Binqose told AFP that "forensic [investigators] will take samples and test to see if there was any poisoning of any sort," but added that "the place had a lot more people than it normally takes."

Ngevu said he could not rule out whether or not pepper spray had been used.

"I am not going to dispute that someone came and used pepper spray that resulted in people dying. I wasn't there and it wasn't me who sprayed the pepper spray," he said.

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Nor could he dismiss allegations of underage youngsters packing the tavern at the time, saying they were always trying to sneak in despite all efforts by management to keep them out.

"I sympathise with people who have lost their loved ones. It wasn't my intention for this to happen," Ngevu said.

He called for calm while police investigations continued.

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So far, 16 bodies have been identified and handed over to families for funeral preparations. The Health Department said five more bodies are yet to be identified.

Police have urged families with missing children, to visit the Woodbrook morgue.

A total of 28 youngsters were treated for headaches, breathing trouble and backaches resulting from the stampede.

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Police have since registered an inquest docket into the death of the teenagers.

Anyone with relevant information pertaining to the tragedy is urged to contact police or the Crime Stop number on 08600 10111.

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