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INS Sindhurakshak tragedy: Seventh body retrieved from sunken vessel

Indian Navy divers found another body from the sunken INS Sindhurakshak submarine yesterday, taking the total number of recovered bodies seven. Eleven others are still reported missing. Navy officials said the body was extricated from a compartment revisited by the divers last morning.


Rescue op: Salvage work began on August 14. Pic/Shadab Khan

The body was airlifted by a naval helicopter and taken to INHS Asvini in Colaba, where required formalities were completed after which the local police station was notified. Colaba police registered an accidental death case under section 174 of Criminal Procedure Code.

The body was then sent to state-run J J Hospital for post-mortem, where a panel of two forensic surgeons conducted the autopsy, which was also videographed. Unconfirmed reports reveal that another sailor’s body has been spotted inside the submarine and efforts were being made to bring it out. Both the navy and police sources, however, did not confirm the same.

Eighteen Navy personnel, including three officers, were on board the INS Sindhurakshak submarine when an explosion resulting in a major fire took place, sending it to the bottom of the sea last Wednesday. Five bodies were pulled out three days after the calamity -- the worst peace-time tragedy to hit the country -- while the sixth body was recovered on Saturday and the seventh yesterday.

An officer from Colaba police station said that the body recovered yesterday was completely charred, with bones of legs and arms visible.

Viscera preserved
Meanwhile, the forensic surgeons tasked with conducting the autopsies have been asked to follow a standard procedure while preserving samples. Apart from preserving the viscera, femur bone and tooth samples for DNA examination, they have been also instructed to preserve the blackish stains found on the surface of the skin for chemical analysis. The analysis, according to officials, will help rule out any sabotage angle.

The Western Naval Command, which had earlier decided to shift the bodies after autopsy to the mortuary at INHS Asvini, have altered their plan and all bodies are to be kept in the mortuary at JJ Hospital.

A forensic surgeon said, “We were informed that INHS Asvini does not have a large mortuary where bodies could be preserved for a long period and, hence, the bodies will now be kept at JJ Hospital.”

DNA tests underway
A team of seven to eight technicians has started working on the DNA samples received at the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) in Kalina. A senior scientist at the laboratory explained that they have to wait for 12 hours for the processing of extracting genetic matters from the samples and then cross matching them. Once that is done, the samples are put under the genetic analyser instrument, which too takes some time. “Our team was working even on Sunday; we have put aside all other works,” said the scientist.

INS Sindhughosh being nursed back to health
INS Sindhughosh, docked merely yards away from INS Sindhurakshak when the explosion occurred last Wednesday, is now on the road to recovery. INS Sindhughosh suffered extensive damage, as the fire from the explosion melted the 50 mm rubber coating applied on the outer hull surface on the submarine. Naval officials said the vessel, which is undergoing repairs at the naval dockyard in Colaba, is expected to be ready in a fortnight after which it will be used to guard the coastline once again. The maintenance crew from the dock is carrying out the repair work.
-- Iram Siddique

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