Two students of College APPEC Remera Rukoma in Kamonyi District have died after they allegedly consumed the poisonous ethanol chemical compound.
The victims have been identified as Robert Ishimwe, 18, a senior five student who hails from Mukama Sector of Nyagatare District, Eastern Province and Vasly Museveni Gisa, 16, (Senior four) who originates from Gitega Sector of Nyarugenge District, City of Kigali.
They died on Mondaymorning, according to Prosper Harerimana, the school headteacher.
Their bodies were transfered to Kacyiru Police Hospital for post-mortem, according to Police sources. Results of the medical tests were yet to be released by press time.
Fourteen other students were also rushed to Remera Rukoma Hospital and a local health centre for treatment, Harerimana said. Thirteen of them were discharged on Monday evening while another one, who is still hospitalised, is said to be in a stable condition.
It is reported that the students consumed the poisonous substance after a Senior Six student smuggled a one-liter bottle from the school chemistry laboratory last Friday.
Harerimana told The New Times that the student and his classmates had been practicing in the lab as they prepared for the upcoming national exams due next month.
“Those who were treated said they were tricked in believing that it [Ethanol] was Kanyanga, a local brew,” Harerimana said.
“Anyone caught drinking alcohol is immediately expelled from the school,” he insisted.
Kanyanga is a locally distilled colorless gin that is banned from the local market but continues to be made and consumed illegally in some parts of the country despite continuous efforts to stop its manufacture and trade.
“Some allegedly consumed the raw product [ethanol] while others said they mixed it with tea,” Harerimana said.
Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, is a flammable, volatile and colorless liquid which is used as a motor fuel and sometimes as a beverage. It is also used in thermometers as a solvent.
However, once consumed in high quantities the product can cause nausea or vomiting and can result in serious liver damage, leading to death.
The Southern Region Police Spokesperson Chief Superintendent, Hubert Gashagaza, told The New Times that a student, aged 21, who is suspected to have smuggled the product from the school lab and a chemistry teacher have been arrested in the wake of the investigations.
Investigations are still ongoing to determine whether there is any criminal motive behind the deaths or if the case was accidental, Gashagaza said.
“Medical results and on-site evidence will determine what caused the deaths and who is responsible,” Gashagaza said.
This is the first such incident in the province, according to Police.
“Teachers should increase vigilance and surveillance on students to make sure they do not take dangerous things out of labaratories,” Gashagaza said.