A day after the mishap on board a Kolkata-class destroyer undergoing trials at the Mumbai Port Trust, the post-mortem concluded that Commander Kuntal Wadhwa died of blunt injuries to his head, police said. But sources at Mazgaon Dock Limited (MDL) said Wadhwa died of suffocation while attempting to stop the leak of carbon dioxide from a fire extinguisher. Aslam Kazi, an MDL labourer, was also injured.
A wreath-laying ceremony, conducted at Naval hospital INHS Asvini on Saturday, was attended by Wadhwa’s family, friends and Naval officials. He was cremated with military honours at the Chandanwadi crematorium in Marine Lines.
Wadhwa was testing the fire extinguishers in an enclosed compartment when the incident occurred, police said. The fire-fighting system is designed such that carbon dioxide is released from pipes as soon as the fire alarm goes off. These pipes are connected to five large fire extinguishers. Sources said the compartment, located on the lower deck, was closed to test the capabilities of fire extinguishers.
“Wadhwa was standing next to a fire extinguisher when its cap burst open. He had not taken safety precautions and was not wearing a face mask while conducting the tests. The carbon dioxide must have choked him,” said a source. He was pronounced dead on arrival at JJ Hospital.
“There are no other injuries on his body apart from dark marks above and below the eye. They appear to be caused due to being hit at great force. There were no signs of him having inhaled the gas,” said Pandurang Dhoke, senior inspector, Yellow Gate police station. “The hole is as a small as a pinprick and very little carbon dioxide escaped out of it. But the fire alarms went off and Wadhwa immediately shut the valve. Wadhwa, in his rush to get out, ran straight into the door. Forgetting to duck, the low arch of the door hit him on the head at full force. He collapsed there,” said Dhoke.
With Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra