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Mass funeral for 21 teenagers who mysteriously died at South African tavern being held Wednesday

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(LONDON) — Preparations are underway in South Africa’s coastal town of East London for Wednesday’s mass funeral service of 21 teenagers who died under mysterious circumstances at a bar last week.

The results of the toxicology report are not yet available, but it is widely believed that they died after inhaling toxic gas or fumes while partying in the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park in the early hours on June 26.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will attend the service Wednesday.

The 12 girls and nine boys mysteriously died during and after a party organized at the Scenery Park venue. The mass service will take place on a sports field in Scenery Park, after which families will be able to bury their loved ones at separate cemeteries.

Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly letter to the public earlier this week that the country needs to have a “frank conversation” about alcohol consumption, saying increased social acceptability of young people drinking alcohol has become a serious problem in a country where the majority of the drinking population is already classified by the World Health Organization as binge drinkers.

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The Eastern Cape Liquor Board has opened a criminal case against the tavern owner, Siyakhangela Ndevu, and wife, Vuyokazi, for allegedly selling alcohol to underage children.

Brig. Tembinkosi Kinana, a spokesperson for the South African Police Service, said the circumstances surrounding the incident are still under investigation.

“The investigation into the Scenery Park incident is still ongoing. There are no new developments at this stage. At an appropriate time and once the results are out, a formal statement will be issued. It has not yet been determined as to when the results will be out,” Kinana told ABC News.

No arrests have been made and no suspects have been named in connection with the investigation, according to police.

The Daily Dispatch, a South African newspaper published in East London, reported that the teens were attending a party at the Enyobeni Tavern to celebrate the end of June school exams. Their bodies were reportedly found strewn across tables, chairs and the dance floor with no visible signs of injuries.

A 22-year-old Scenery Park resident, Sibongile Mtsewu, told ABC News he was at the Enyobeni Tavern when the deadly incident unfolded. He said he was ordering drinks at the crowded club when suddenly the doors were closed and some type of chemical agent was released into the air.

“There was no way out,” Mtsewu previously told ABC News in an interview shortly after the incident. “There was no chance to breathe.”

ABC News’ Morgan Winsor contributed to this report.

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