Millennium Post

Another mishap, Navy commander dies

The Indian Navy was hit by yet another mishap on Friday with leakage of a deadly gas on an under-construction warship claiming the life of a Commander and hospitalisation of two others, nine days after a similar accident led to resignation of Navy Chief Admiral D K Joshi.

According to agency reports, 42-year-old Commander Kuntal Wadhwa died before reaching hospital after inhaling carbon dioxide that leaked from a malfunctioning unit just little after noon when the Kolkata Class ‘Yard-701’ warship was undergoing tests in the Mazagaon Dock Limited (MDL), officials said. Two employees of the defence ministry shipyard were also affected by the gas leakage and were taken to hospital. An MDL official said they have been discharged.

The warship, which was to be named INS Kolkata, is to be commissioned on 27 March and officials said there will be no delay in that. Friday’s mishap, which came just nine days after fire and smoke in submarine INS Sindhuratna claimed lives of two officers, triggered demands for defence minister A K Antony’s resignation.

Admiral Joshi had quit as Navy chief after the Sindhuratna incident, which was the 10th in a series of such mishaps, taking ‘moral responsibility’. Vice-Admiral Robin Dhowan is currently the Acting Navy chief.

Preliminary inquiries into Friday’s mishap suggested that the valve of firefighting equipment and nuclear, chemical and biological warfare capabilities of the warship burst when a specialist team was making checks. Cdr Wadhwa, who was the Commander (Engineer) of the largest destroyer of the Navy, inhaled large amounts of the gas as he was not wearing a mask, they said. Navy and the shipyard have set up separate boards of inquiry into the incident.

‘Wadhva, 42, was declared dead before admission in St George Hospital at 1317 hours. He was a resident of Colaba and his relatives are coming from Thane,’ Additional CP Krishna Prakash. BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar accused the Congress- led UPA government of indulging in scams and jeopardising the country’s defence preparedness by not focusing on the equipment needs of the armed forces and stalling the procurement process. ‘This is the 11th serious accident in past 11 months,’ he said. ‘This is the result of complete neglect of the Navy by the Congress-led UPA government. Defence minister Antony must take the responsibility and resign forthwith,’ he said.
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