Mumbai, March 7: In the second major incident affecting the Indian Navy in a fortnight, an officer was killed and a worker injured after inhaling carbon dioxide gas leaking from a cylinder on an advanced warship, INS Kolkata, being outfitted at the Mazagaon Docks Ltd (MDL) here Friday afternoon, an official said.
The leak is believed to have occurred after a cylinder accidently opened and reportedly hit the victim, Commander Kunal Wadhwa, 42, around 12.45 p.m.
Wadhwa, a resident of Colaba in south Mumbai, was pronounced dead at the state-run St. George Hospital.
Another MDL worker, Aslam G. Kazi, 51, a resident of suburban Malad, has been admitted to private hospital in Mazagaon.
Police recorded Kazi’s statement after his condition stabilized later this evening, an official of Yellowgate Police Station, which has registered the case as an accident, said.
Kazi, a worker in the MDL was passing by the area when he inhaled the gas and felt suffocated, but he had not registered any complaint against the MDL.
The police official said that the vessel was anchored in the Mumbai Port Trust for testing its fire-fighting equipment when CO2 got released from a hatch when the bottle neck opened accidentally and the rushing gas hit the commander who was present there.
The 7,000-tonne vessel, the lead ship of the Kolkata class of guided-missile destroyers and designated Yard 701, was undergoing trials when the tragedy struck.
It will be inducted into the Indian Navy as INS Kolkata’ later this month as per schedule, Friday’s tragedy notwithstanding, MDL officials said.
According to an official who requested anonymity, the valve on top of the CO2 gas cylinder burst, apparently hitting Commander Wadhwa on the chest.
As he collapsed, he may also have inhaled the gas, resulting in his death.
“There was no blast or fire or damage otherwise. With some upgradation and repair, the ship will be fine. There should be no delay in commissioning,” MDL spokesperson Paresh Panthaki told media persons.
Both the Indian Navy and MDL have ordered separate inquiries into the incident.
MDL is India’s premier shipyard and manufactures warships, submarines, offshore platforms, tankers, passenger ships and support vessels for the Indian Navy and also private sector.
This is the second incident to have hit the country’s defence establishment within a fortnight.
On Feb 26, a fire on the mess deck of the INS Sindhuratna submarine resulted in the deaths of two officers when it was on a training mission in the Arabian Sea. Seven sailors were injured and were airlifted to the INHS Ashvani hospital in south Mumbai.
INS Kolkata was laid down in September 2003 and launched in March 2006. Two sister ships, INS Kochi and INS Chennai, are also under construction at MDL.
The Kolkata class vessels are the follow on of the Delhi class destroyers of which the Indian Navy operates three – INS Delhi, INS Mumbai and INS Mysore.