December 4, 2023

East London, South Africa (Associated Press) – More than a thousand bereaved family and community members attend a funeral in East London, South Africa for 21 teenagers who died in a mysterious tragedy in a nightclub nearly two weeks ago.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver a memorial service for the young man who died.

A large choir sang mournful hymns as 19 coffins were moved to a large tent where the service was being held in the town of Sentry Park in east London. Two families did a private burial, and service organizers said the coffins on display were empty in deference to the wishes of some families. They said the children would be buried in various cemeteries later Wednesday and in the coming days.

As the tent filled to capacity, more mourners sat outside.

The cause of death of the young men, aged 13 to 17, whose bodies were found in the Enyobeni tavern, is still unknown. All were under the age of 18 drinking in South Africa. Pathologists study the cause of death from blood samples. Police said a stampede was ruled out because the victims’ bodies did not show serious injuries.

A gloomy mood reigns in the neighborhood around the rundown tavern, where some residents have laid wreaths and flowers. Authorities closed the bar, amid questions about how many underage teens could congregate at an establishment selling alcohol after midnight on June 26.

Community members say there is a known problem with underage drinking.

Ramaphosa’s title comes into service as he faces numerous challenges including extended power outages in South Africa, widespread allegations of corruption and questions about large amounts of cash found hidden in furniture on his toy farm.

In addition to Ramaphosa’s memorial service, the funeral service will include chants for local choirs and speeches by family representatives and religious and community leaders.

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