Toxicologist Dr Gerhard Verdoorn says it is concerning that the exact cause of death of the 21 young people at the Enyobeni tavern in the Eastern Cape has still not been revealed.
Preliminary toxicology reports are pointing to methanol poisoning as a possible cause of the deaths.
Methanol is a type of alcohol used in cleaning products and pesticides, but it is poisonous to humans.
Verdoorn says further investigations should be able to clear the confusion relating to the cause of death because methanol deaths in his experience are not immediate, as was apparently the case at Enyobeni.
“What bothers me about the methanol hypothesis is then why did they die so suddenly? This was an acute mortality of a large number of kids and my experience having worked with quite a few methanol cases is that people ingest the methanol, but it takes them sometimes up to days before they die.”
“So, they first go into a toxemic shock, where they lose their vision, they go into a coma, and then they die. It’s never been a case of really dying acutely. So, if they died from methanol, it would have been an enormous dose of methanol,” says Verdoorn.
Traces of methanol found in Enyobeni tavern victims
Meanwhile, learners from 11 high schools in Motherwell in the Nelson Mandela Bay area have held a march in memory of the 21 young people who died at the Enyobeni tavern.
The learners handed over a petition to the local police station.
They are demanding police visibility at liquor outlets and discouraging the sale of alcohol to underage persons.
The learners have called on law enforcement and various community leaders to take a stand and clamp down on those who sell alcohol to minors.
A learner says they demand police visibility in their area.
“We are urging that the police must raise awareness to other officers that they should be more alert about what’s happening in our youth and must be always on the lookout in liquor outlets. They must be on the lookout and stand there in large numbers to prevent underage drinking and that’s why I organised the event so that we can commemorate our young people that died in Enyobeni.”
Learners in Motherwell township march for Enyobeni tavern victims: