The inquest into the deaths of 21 youths last June after a night out at an informal nightspot in a township in East London, South Africa, is continuing. The first toxicological analyzes made on Tuesday were inconclusive, evoking however the presence of methanol in the blood of the victims.
The mystery remains intact. After the death of 21 young people at the end of June in a bar in East London, South Africa, the conclusions of the first toxicological analyzes were made public on Tuesday July 19. If they did not bring any conclusion to the investigation, the presence of methanol in the blood of the victims is intriguing.
Analyzes carried out by a laboratory in Cape Town revealed the presence of alcohol in the blood of the victims, but not at a fatal level, explained Litha Matiwane, of the health service of the Eastern Cape province. “What we have determined as the blood alcohol level ranges from 0.50 to 2.60 grams per liter of blood, which does not allow us to conclude that there is lethal toxicology,” he continued.
On carbon monoxide, blood hemoglobin saturation levels range from 3.3% to 21%, well below the 50% lethal threshold, he added.
traces of methanol in the blood
However, the analyzes detected methanol in the blood of all the victims. The methanol level could not be determined and will be the subject of additional analyses. Methanol is a form of alcohol, used as a fuel, pesticide, solvent or antifreeze, and which is extremely toxic to humans if ingested or inhaled.
For the time being, the authorities are being cautious and are not attributing the deaths of the 21 young people to methanol, pending further research. “Further testing is underway to pinpoint the exact cause of death. We can’t tell at this point where they got the methanol, whether through alcohol or something else. It is still unknown,” explained to the Washington Post.
Still, the circumstances of the case raise questions. The bodies of 17 young people were found in the bar, with no apparent injuries. Four others died in hospital within hours.
Authorities had ruled out the possibility of a deadly stampede. Witnesses had also mentioned a “suffocating smell”, while others suggested intoxication or poisoning.
The owner of the clandestine bar must appear on August 19 in court to answer charges of selling alcohol to minors. Two of its employees, aged 33 and 34, have already been fined 2,000 rand (120 euros) for the same reason, according to the South African police.