Three men were found dead inside a manhole in Dombivali on Friday evening. The men, all contract labourers, had gone in to clean the underground chamber, police said.
According to Tilak Nagar police in Dombivali, the deceased have been identified as Devidas Pajage (30), Mahadev Jhope (35) and Ghanshyam Kori (38). The police said that Pajage and Jhope are residents of Dombivali and Kalyan, respectively. They were the only earning members in their families. Both are survived by three children. Kori, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, had been living in Dombivali for a few years.
“The incident was reported around 4 pm. Pajage had gone in before the others. But he collapsed and then the others followed. When none of them came back and did not respond to cries from those outside, the contractor, who was present at the spot, stopped other workers from entering the manhole and called the police,” said an officer.
The bodies were retrieved by firemen. “All were declared brought dead at the civil hospital in Kalwa. We are investigating what caused the deaths,” said a senior officer from Thane police.
The police have sent the bodies for post-mortem and are waiting for the medical opinion. “Prima facie, we have ascertained that it was negligence on the contractor’s part as he did not provide safety gear to his workers. We are in the process of lodging an FIR against him and we expect to arrest him once the FIR is registered,” said S B Sawant, senior inspector, Tilak Nagar police station.
The police said that it is a case of suffocation due to poisonous gases. According to sources, the contractor was working in an MIDC area, not administered by the Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC). Officials in KDMC said the municipality does not undertake manual cleaning of drains but uses machinery for the purpose.