INS Sindhurakshak tragedy: Identifying bodies could take a week

Aug 18, 2013, 08:16 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Naval divers purse open rear hatch of the submarine, extract one more body. Efforts on to open front hatch. Meanwhile, forensic experts say DNA reports to identify the dead could take five to seven days

More than four days after tragic serial explosions on INS Sindhurakshak destroyed the submarine and killed several officers and men of the Indian Navy, naval divers extracted one more body from the submarine on Saturday, taking the number of bodies recovered to six in past two days. An entry of Accidental Death Register (ADR) has been made at the Colaba police station and the charred corpse sent for an autopsy to the JJ postmortem centre.

Salvage operations continued inside the Naval Dockyard on Saturday four days after a series of explosions rocked submarine INS Sindhurakshak on August 14. Pic/ Shadab Khan

According to forensic surgeons attached to the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Grant Medical College, almost all the bodies brought for autopsy displayed similar features -- the bodies were exposed to high temperature and then immediately to boiling hot water. This was evident from the fact that the body was not completely charred, the skin was burnt and peeled and bones were visible on the face, hands and legs -- making identification difficult. Like at the time of the five bodies extracted earlier, four naval doctors attached to INHS Asvini were present during the postmortem. Additional Commissioner of Police (South) Region, Krishna Prakash confirmed that only one body was recovered on Saturday and laid to rest the speculation of three more bodies being found from the submarine.

DNA reports to take another week
Meanwhile DNA samples and viscera of one out of the five naval personnel were sent to the Forensics Science Laboratory (FSL), Kalina on Saturday evening. Arrangements were made at FSL to collect the samples even if it came late in the night, as special case. peaking to SUNDAY MiD DAY, M K Malwe, director, State FSL, confirmed receiving the sample and said, “I have instructed the Director (DNA) and his team to get the samples tested at priority, but it will still take any where between four days to a week to submit the reports.” The DNA section of FSL, has over 1,200 cases pending for DNA profiling and matching, received in last six months from all over the state. “On an average the centre gets 40 to 50 samples for DNA profiling every month,” explained a scientist.

When asked the reason for such a large number of pending cases, the scientist said they have a single DNA sequencing machine, which is worth R one crore and hence the delay. “I will have to go through the samples sent. In some cases, the blood samples of the relatives match with the DNA of femur bones and tooth enamel of the deceased faster, but in some cases, it does not, and we may have to conduct repeated tests. 

We may take a week to submit our findings,” said a scientist. Meanwhile, Commander Roy Francis, a submariner from Kochi Naval base, has been called in to assist the rescue team. According to him, “The entire operation is taking time as it is very difficult for the divers to enter the submarine that has been burnt badly. There are sharp edges, hanging wires, oil and other residues which is blocking their path inside a pitch dark area.” On Saturday, the Navy in a written note to the media stated that Naval divers had successfully prised open the rear escape hatch, which was submerged below water and jammed. Efforts were also being made to open the forward escape hatch.  

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