At least seventeen people died at a Caracas club early on Saturday morning when a person activated a tear gas grenade inside, Venezuela's interior minister Nestor Reverol said.
Over 500 people were at a party at the Los Cotorros club in the middle-class El Paraiso neighborhood when the device went off at about 3 a.m. during a fight between several people, causing a stampede towards the exits, Reverol said on state TV.
Eleven people suffocated to death when the gas filled the club's confined space, said Noris Villanueva, an autopsy assistant at the local Perez Carreno Hospital, who examined their bodies. It was not clear how the other six died.
Eight of those who died were younger than 18, Reverol said, and five people were injured.
Reverol said authorities had arrested 7 people and the investigation was ongoing.
"The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, led by President Nicolas Maduro, deplores this unfortunate event. We send our condolences to the families," he said.
The club, a two-story red brick building, was empty later on Saturday morning and there was no police presence outside, according to a Reuters reporter there.
"We haven't received a response from anybody, neither from the police nor the doctors," Nilson Guerra, the father of one victim, said at the hospital.
Tear gas explosion at Caracas club kills 17 people