Survivors in South African bar where 21 people died say they choked on a mysterious substance that smelled like tear gas or pepper spray

South African Pub

Forensic officers carry a body from a bar in the city of East London, South Africa.STR/AFP via Getty Images

  • At least 21 people were mysteriously found dead in a bar in South Africa on a Sunday.

  • Survivors said they had choked on a fabric, with someone saying it smelled like tear gas or pepper spray.

  • The cause of death remains unclear. Officials suspect accidental poisoning.

Survivors in a South African bar where at least 21 people were mysteriously found dead said they were choking on a substance that smelled like tear gas or pepper spray, multiple reports say.

At least 21 people, most of whom were minors, were found scattered on floors and tables at the Enyobeni Tavern in the city of East London, South Africa, on Sunday morning. That reports DispatchLive.

The youngest victim was 13 years old, police said. reported the BBC.

Kamvelihle Matafeni, an 18-year-old student, told The Washington Post that she went to the bar with her friends for a much-advertised party hosted by two popular local DJs.

Matafeni told The Post that the bar started to fill up and she saw something hurl through the door into the crowd.

People around her started yelling, “I can’t breathe” and “I’m choking,” she said. Matafeni said she also had trouble breathing and was pushed to the door.

“People were falling all around me,” she told The Post. “They died right before my eyes.”

She eventually managed to get out of the bar, The Post reported.

Another 17-year-old student, identified only as Sinethemba, told Al Jazeera that the bar was overcrowded and that some people had been asked to leave when a substance was sprayed into the crowd.

“We were suffocating for a long time and [were] pushing each other, but it was no use because some people died,” she told Al Jazeera.

“It smelled like gas. I’m not sure if it was tear gas or pepper spray. Then some people died and I fell asleep for three hours,” she said, adding that she eventually woke up and was picked up by a family member.

It is unclear who would have sprayed the substance into the bar. South African police did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, telling The Post that it had made no arrests so far.

Authorities previously said they ruled out a stampede as the cause of death because there were “no visible wounds” on one of the victims, That reports Agence France-Presse.

Unathi Binqose, spokesman for the Eastern Cape Provincial Security Department, told Reuters on Monday: “It’s either something they ingested that will indicate poisoning, whether it’s food or drink, or it’s something they inhaled. .” A toxicology report is still pending.

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