22 Teenagers Found Dead Inside South African Bar. No One Knows How They Died

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South African Police Forces (SAPS) and forensics experts work at the scene where an estimated 20 young people died in Enyobeni Tavern in East London, South Africa
South African Police Forces (SAPS) and forensics experts work at the scene where an estimated 20 young people died in Enyobeni Tavern in East London, South Africa

STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Police and forensic experts work at the Enyobeni Tavern in East London

Officials say 22 teenagers died at a tavern in South Africa over the weekend — but the cause of their death remains a mystery.

The teens' bodies were found "lifeless" on Sunday around 4 a.m. local time at a local tavern in Scenery Park, East London, according to a news release from the South African Police Service (SAPS).

At least nine women and 12 men were found dead when emergency responders arrived at the venue, SAPS reported.

The victims were between the ages of 13 and 17, according to CNN and USA Today. However, South Africa's Daily Maverick reported the victims' ages are between 14 and 20.

East London police did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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Members of the community and family wait for news outside a township pub as a police officer talks on a phone in South Africa's southern city of East London
Members of the community and family wait for news outside a township pub as a police officer talks on a phone in South Africa's southern city of East London

STR/AFP via Getty Images Authorities outside the Enyobeni Tavern in Scenery Park, East London on Sunday after more than 20 people died.

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa offered his "deepest condolences" to the families of the 22 victims, who died during South Africa's Youth Month.

"This tragedy is made even more grave by its occurrence during Youth Month – a time during which we celebrate young people, advocate and advance opportunities for improved socio-economic conditions for the youth of our nation," said Ramaphosa, 69, on Twitter.

Sunday's incident occurred at Enyobeni Tavern, the Maverick reported. The venue promoted a Saturday night of "Hooka[h] food and alcohol" on its Facebook page prior to the event. The social media post promised live performances, surprise guests and "various" DJs.

The business did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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People comfort a family member of dead teenager outside a mortuary in East London, South Africa
People comfort a family member of dead teenager outside a mortuary in East London, South Africa

Oluthando Mthimkhulu/Xinhua via Getty Images A family member of a victim is comforted outside a mortuary in East London, South Africa.

Officials located 17 bodies inside the tavern upon arrival, SAPS said in Sunday's release. Two victims "died at a local clinic," one died at a hospital, and another died while being transported.

Additionally, four people were listed in critical condition at the hospital, per the Maverick. At least three victims reportedly went to the hospital after going home from the tavern after feeling ill.

The victims' bodies did not appear to have any visible wounds or signs of injury, according to USA Today.

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Though the teens' official cause of death has not been revealed, Unathi Binqose, a spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Community Safety, told the Maverick that forensic pathologists believe the teens consumed something that led to their deaths based on initial autopsy results.

Forensic experts work outside a tavern for the death of teenagers in East London, South Africa
Forensic experts work outside a tavern for the death of teenagers in East London, South Africa

Oluthando Mthimkhulu/Xinhua via Getty Images Forensic experts outside a tavern in East London, South Africa.

"[They] said it was something they ingested, possibly from the beers they were consuming, or something they inhaled from those hubbly-bubblies [water pipes or hookahs] that they were smoking," Binqose told the outlet.

Some witnesses claimed the victims were killed during a stampede, which has since been ruled out, per the Maverick.

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An investigation into the incident is ongoing. SAPS said management "has ordered the deployment of maximum resources" as officials look into Sunday's incident, according to Sunday's news release.

South African Police Forces (SAPS) and forensics experts work at the scene where an estimated 20 young people died in Enyobeni Tavern in East London, South Africa
South African Police Forces (SAPS) and forensics experts work at the scene where an estimated 20 young people died in Enyobeni Tavern in East London, South Africa

STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Police and forensic experts work at the Enyobeni Tavern in East London.

Speaking with reporters at the Enyobeni Tavern, where the deaths occurred, national Police Minister Bheki Cele said toxicology labs in Cape Town will analyze samples from the bodies of the victims, according to CNN and USA Today.

In SAPS' news release, Cele said officials are "engaging other stakeholders to investigate issues of compliance to liquor legislation."

"We have an experienced team that is complementing the provincial team to ensure that we get to the bottom of what has led to the death of these young people," he explained.

Anyone who may have information about Sunday's incident is asked to share information via the #CrimeStop number at 08600 10111.