A Navy commander died and two personnel had to be hospitalised Friday following an accident on board a Kolkata-class destroyer undergoing trials at the Mumbai Port Trust, weeks before it was to join the fleet.
The officer, identified as Commander Kuntal Wadhwa, collapsed after fire-suppression systems on board the Kolkata warship, currently designated Yard 12701, malfunctioned during trials.
He inhaled a large amount of carbon dioxide after the unit malfunctioned, and later died. Two personnel of the Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL), where the ship is being built, were also affected and have been hospitalised.
Commander Rahul Sinha, Chief PRO (Defence), said: “The vessel is being built by MDL and has not been commissioned into the Indian Navy. It is undergoing a series of trials, and is to be commissioned sometime this year. A commander who was on board the vessel has died after a gas leak during machinery trials. There was no blast or fire on board.”
Rajeev Gupta, Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust, said: “The officers were trying to test the fire-fighting equipment on board, when the carbon dioxide unit valve burst open and caused head injuries to the officer, who later succumbed to injuries. Inhalation of carbon dioxide has caused problems for another person on board, while some others have been injured during the course of the accident. The MDL chairman has informed me that the spillage of gas has stopped.”
MDL spokesperson Pervez Panthaky said: “There has been no explosion on board the ship. There was a malfunction in the carbon dioxide unit that led to a gas leakage in which the naval officer died. Two of our personnel were also affected by the gas leak and were hospitalised, but they are both okay now.”
Wadhwa, who hailed from Delhi, was a resident of Archana Building in the Naval Officers Residential Area, Colaba, where he lived with his wife.
Almost two dozen major and minor accidents have taken place involving frontline Navy warships in the last six months — Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi resigned last month.
A Board of Inquiry has been ordered by the Navy to investigate the Friday accident and MDL personnel will also join investigations.
The accident is a major setback for the Navy as the Kolkata-class destroyer, called P 15 A, was to be inducted next month as the most advanced, indigenous warship in its fleet. Already four years behind schedule, the Kolkata is the first of its class and is to be followed by the Chennai and Kochi which are under construction as part of a Rs 15,000-crore project. Three more advanced P 15 B destroyers have been planned thereafter.
The accident that has led to the death of a commander is likely to delay its induction as the Navy will now conduct a comprehensive safety review of the vessel before accepting it for duty.