South African authorities have said that 21 teenagers who were found dead in a South African nightclub last month all had traces of the chemical methanol in their systems.
There was shock and horror last month after patrons noticed people collapsing and dying in the club. Police began an immediate investigation into the cause of death and stated immediately after the deaths that no individual appeared to have suffered external wounds or violence to their persons.
Methanol is an odourless substance that is highly toxic if ingested, however, it is commonly used in the production of moonshine alcohol as it is a cheaper alternative to alcohol. In small quantities, methanol can give a drug-like feeling similar to alcohol, but in larger quantities, it can cause death.
It is therefore likely that the bar or someone bringing drinks into the bar was selling illegally produced alcohol that had been topped up with methanol and those killed were entirely unaware of what they were really consuming.
During prohibition in the United States criminals, selling alcohol illegally would often use methanol as a cheap substitute, causing many deaths and blindness in those who survived an overdose.
Dr. Litha Matiwane, Eastern Cape provincial deputy director for clinical service, said at a press conference:
“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.”
All of those killed at the Enyobeni tavern in the town of East London were between 13 and 17 years of age, many were believed to be celebrating their end of year exams at the nightclub.
The deaths have led to calls by South African citizens to clamp down on illegally produced moonshine alcohol and on underage drinking in general. In South Africa, it is currently illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 18.
[Based on reporting by: Yahoo]