A forest official and his driver were on Tuesday found suffocated under “mysterious circumstances” inside their car in West Midnapore, where they were on night patrol duty. The deceased — forest department guard Damodar Murmu (36) and driver Amol Chakraborty (35) — were assigned to Kushkathi jungle after villagers in the nearby Lalgarh area alleged they had spotted a tiger in the area. “Prima facie, they died due to suffocation. All the windows and doors of the vehicle were shut. It is an unnatural death and hence their bodies have been sent for postmortem. The actual cause will be ascertained only after we receive reports,” Superintendent of Police (West Mednipore) Alok Rajoria told The Indian Express.
According to a senior police officer, arrangements had been made with villagers to keep a light focused on the forest to deter animal encroachment. A generator used to power this light was kept inside the vehicle, and the two deceased had been in charge of operating it. Sources said the duo might have died due to the smoke emitted by the generator, as they had also kept their car windows shut. Villagers found the deceased on Tuesday and informed police, upon which officers from Goaltor station rushed to the spot and retrieved the bodies.
Forest officials have been trying to track down the tiger after the recent “sighting” near Lalgarh. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had in an administrative meeting in the Bankura police lines asked forest officials to ensure that the tiger did not stray into human habitation.