INS Sindhurakshak tragedy: Navy faces its dead; identifying bodies a challenging task

After naval divers fished out what remained of five of the 18 sailors aboard the submarine INS Sindhurakshak, which exploded at naval dockyard on Wednesday, the process to identify them began yesterday.

Tough task: The bodies of sailors that were beyond recognition were sent to the postmorten at the JJ mortuary yesterday. Pic/Satyajit Desai

The DNA extracted from the femurs and teeth of the bodies will be matched with that of the blood samples taken from relatives of all the 18 sailors who were on board the submarine. And unless there is a mismatch in the sampling, the remains will be preserved at the morgue of Naval hospital INHS Asvini.



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Today, the samples will be sent to the State Forensic Science Laboratory, Kalina for DNA matching.

A forensic scientist from the lab confirmed receiving a phone call from the Navy. “The officer made inquiries about the process of sending the samples. Only after we get the samples will we be able to ascertain the time required for conducting the tests.”

The bodies were first taken to the naval hospital, where their X-rays were taken. At around 6 pm, two bodies were sent to JJ Postmortem Center. A team of forensic surgeons headed by Dr Sudhir Nanandkar, head of department, forensic medicine, Grant Medical College, conducted the autopsies that lasted for over two hours. Four doctors from INHS Asvini were present for the procedures, which were recorded.

Surgeons who conducted the autopsy said that both the bodies were first exposed to high temperature and, immediately after, to hot water. This was evident from the fact that the bodies were not completely charred: the burnt skin had peeled off from the face, hands and legs, baring the bones underneath.

Since the bodies had been lying in seawater for more than 48 hours, they did not show any sign of decomposition. The internal organs were found intact. The surgeons suspect that death was instantaneous in both cases, right after the blasts.

After extracting samples for DNA sampling, the surgeons handed back the bodies to the Cuffe Parade police, who took them to the mortuary at the naval hospital. The final cause of death is pending chemical analysis and DNA findings.

Around 9.45 pm, two more bodies were brought for autopsy. Surgeons pointed out that these bodies were similarly charred beyond recognition. The autopsy went on until after 11 pm and then the bodies were handed over to the Navy.

Additional Commissioner of Police (south region) Krishna Prakash said, “The Cuffe Parade police were informed by the INHS Asvini sergeant surgeon Dr Gopal Singh Rajput who is also the complainant. After autopsy, these two bodies will also be handed over to the Navy.” 

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