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Methanol poisoning probed as likely cause for Enyobeni Tavern deaths

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Methanol toxicity is being investigated as a possible cause for the Enyobeni tavern deaths after methanol was found in the blood samples from all the deceased.

Eastern Cape health DG Dr Litha Matiwane said they were still waiting for the results determining if the toxic level of methanol ingested was lethal.

“You can ingest it, but it is also a by-product of some other chemicals. We are waiting for those results,” Matiwane said.

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He said the victims’ blood alcohol levels were not fatal, nor were their carbon monoxide levels.

“We are looking for other things like by-products of methanol,” he added, explaining that the gastric contents of the deceased were being analysed to get a better picture of what happened.

The 21 victims – the youngest was just 13 – died in the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park in the early hours of 26 June 2022.

The manager of the tavern, Siyakhangela Ndevu (52), was arrested last week to appear in court on charges of contravening the Liquor Act. Two of his employees were given the chance to pay a fine and avoid court.

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The liquor licence for the tavern is in the name of Ndevu’s wife, Vuyokazi.

The tavern was closed down shortly after the incident.

On Tuesday morning a delegation of senior government officials, including Police Minister Bheki Cele, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane and his health MEC, Nomakhosazana Meth, gathered at the Cambridge Police Station in East London to brief the families of the deceased.

Mabuyane said he realised the families needed more emotional support because their pain ran very deep and some had lost their only children.

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