Several factors may have compromised Enyobeni Tavern scene - forensic expert

South Africans still don't know what officially caused the deaths of the 21 teens who collapsed and died in the East London venue nearly two weeks ago.

The Enyobeni tavern in Scenery Park, East London where 21 people died during an event on 25 June 2022. Picture: Nhlanhla Mabaso/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - A top forensic expert fears that several potential factors may have compromised the scene of the Enyobeni Tavern as investigators try to piece together this puzzling tragedy.

South Africans still don't know what officially caused the deaths of the 21 teens who collapsed and died in the East London venue nearly two weeks ago.

Some have speculated the cause may have been exposed to carbon monoxide.

But forensic expert, Doctor David Klatzow, said that if some of the claims were true, the scene may have been altered before police arrived.

"Your first duty as a forensic expert is to make sure that there's nobody alive left in the building - you get anybody who is alive out, then you seal the building. Now I'm almost certain that that wasn't done because there are reports about the owners taking alcohol out of the building. That's a crucial mistake to allow that to happen, if it did happen because it may well be that there was something in the alcohol."

Klatzow said that while speculation did not help, several questions about the situation come to mind.

"Did they have a petrol engine generator going in there? Eskom as it is, it would surprise me if they didn't. Was it properly ventilated? Was the alcohol all regulation standard alcohol? Were there any drugs being sold on the premises? Was there a stampede?"

Klatzow said that the autopsies shouldn't take longer than two to three weeks, but South Africa's forensic labs have their issues.

"All the samples - liver, blood, urine - those all need to be analysed by the Health Chemical Laboratory which has for many years been running very slowly and there's a massive backlog by the way. Properly run, you should be able to get this done in under two to three weeks," he said.

LISTEN: What's taking the Enyobeni Tavern tragedy probe so long?