South African teenager Sinenjongo Phuthumani had only discovered the joys of drinking in nightclubs with her friends after graduating from school last year.
That new passion ended in horror when the 19-year-old watched friends and other partygoers collapse and die on the floor of an east coast tavern in a weekend tragedy that claimed 21 young lives and prompted nationwide grief.
“I have taken a decision never to go clubbing again,” said Phuthumani, as she joined other mourners for those who died at the Enyobeni tavern in Scenery Park, a township outside the city of East London.
“I’m still traumatised. I was very close to being among the dead. Everything I had promised myself in the future almost faded,” she said, casting her eyes over the overgrown patches of grass dotted with used tyres.
Forensic teams were still working to solve the mystery surrounding the deaths on Thursday, a day after mourners gathered for a vigil to mark the loss of so many children. All the victims were teenagers, the youngest a 13-year-old girl.
Authorities have suggested the teens may have consumed something that poisoned them, although a source close to the investigation on Wednesday said it was most likely chemical asphyxia from a gas leak on the tavern’s poorly-ventilated ground floor.