Sailors died due to gas leak, says Navy

A day after five sailors were killed onboard the INS Jalashwa while it was taking part in a naval exercise near Port Blair, the Indian Navy said that a poisonous gas leak in one of the warship's compartments caused the accident.

Denying initial reports of a fire or explosion aboard the troop carrier ship, the Navy said the accident was caused by "the inadvertent inhalation of H2S (Hydrogen Sulphide) gas by the repair party carrying out maintenance in one of the ship's compartments."

While a board of inquiry will investigate the reason behind the leak, reports suggest that it occurred in a sewage treatment plant pipe that was carrying the poisonous gas.

A source said that the five member crew K V R Krishna Rao (Shipwright Artificer 3), D R Kumar Chaitanya (Shipwright Artificer 3), Ramesh Kumar Nayak (Leading Electrician Mechanic Radio), Deepak Shivran (Sea man) and Narendra Yadav (Electrician Mechanic Power 1) were carrying out routine inspections and repair in the compartment when the leak occurred.

Alerted by the cries of the crew, two officers, Lt Cdr Sweth Gupta and Lt Ruchir Prasad, and an electrician, Yatish Pawar, rushed to the compartment. But they were also affected by the gas and collapsed.

Following this, an emergency response team entered the compartment to evacuate the casualties. While the five sailors in the repair crew died on the spot, the other three were seriously injured.

"It appears that one of the valves may have leaked or a seal may have got broken. It is too early to say whether the leak was due to a human error or a technical fault on the ship," said a naval officer.

The warship, which was participating in the Indian Navy's Tropex exercise in the Bay of Bengal, reached Port Blair on Saturday afternoon while the casualties were evacuated to the naval base at first light by the ship's helicopters. Later, a special IAF aircraft stationed at Port Blair flew in the mortal remains of the sailors to Visakhapatnam.

The injured are being treated at the naval hospital in Port Blair. Lt Prasad and Yatish Pawar are out of danger but Lt Cdr Gupta is still said to be in a critical condition.

The ship is currently undergoing a thorough inspection by a specialised team at Port Blair. Officers said the warship can be repaired within the country. The board of inquiry will establish the cost of repairs as well as the cause of the incident.

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