Arrests made over mystery teen deaths in SA tavern

South Africa police have arrested three people in connection with the deaths of 21 teenagers at an East London tavern last month.

They died mysteriously after collapsing, and police were still investigating the cause.

The victims were found strewn across the floors and tables.

The suspects, including the Enyobeni tavern owner, were detained in connection with allegedly selling alcohol to underage children.

The liquor licence board filed a complaint with the police following the deaths.

The owner of Enyobeni, aged 52, was due to appear in court next week, while two of his employees have been given the option of paying a fine of about $120 (£100) for allegedly selling alcohol to people under the age of 18.

The other two people who were arrested were aged 33 and 34.

The youngest of the victims, who were at a party to celebrate the end of mid-year exams, was aged just 13 and the oldest was 17, according to Police Minister, Bheki Cele.

The minimum drinking age in South Africa was 18, so they should not have been allowed in the venue.

“The venue was packed. Entrance was free… and free alcohol was also being dished out. We started drinking and having fun with others,” a 16-year-old girl who did not want to be named previously told the BBC.

“They were dropping like flies,” she said, describing the deaths.

The toxicology report was yet to be concluded, but pathologists have suggested that the deaths may have been caused by something they inhaled or ingested.

Alcohol has also been blamed by the premier of Eastern Cape Province, Oscar Mabuyane, who condemned the “unlimited consumption of liquor”.

“You can’t just trade in the middle of society like this and think that young people are not going to experiment,” Mr Mabuyane continued.

But the police were remaining cautious: “Just as we said in the beginning, investigation is a process and needs to be treated with extreme care and wisdom,” Eastern Cape provincial commissioner, Nomthetheleli Mene, said.

Yellow police tape now cordons off the drinking place in the South African city of East London where 21 teenagers died in unexplained circumstances.

A forensic team has been going through the site at the Enyobeni tavern to try to understand what exactly took place. -BBC

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