KARWAR, HUBBALLI: Just days before it was to take part in a naval exercise with the French Navy off the west coast, an accidental fire broke out on India’s only aircraft carrier — INS Vikramaditya — off the Karwar coast on Friday morning, claiming the life of a naval officer and leaving nine personnel injured. They are being treated at the INHS Patanjali hospital in Karwar where the condition of five of them is said to be critical.
Lieutenant Commander D S Chauhan (30), who was the head of fire and safety, died dousing the flames. He was rushed to the naval hospital but could not be saved. Chauhan, who hailed from Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh, got married last month and had returned to the Karwar base just a few days ago. He joined the Indian Navy on December 24, 2012.
“Lt Cdr D S Chauhan, who was fighting the fire, suffered loss of consciousness owing to smoke and fumes during the firefight. He could not be saved. The condition of some of the injured is critical and they are being treated in the same hospital. The reason for the fire is yet to be ascertained and an inquiry has been ordered into the incident,” said a naval officer.
The fire was first noticed in the engine room and boiler compartments of the aircraft carrier when it was returning to its mother base in Karwar after patrolling duties on the western front in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack. The vessel was supposed to take part in India-France joint naval exercise from May 1 to 6. As of now, there is no clarity on whether Vikramaditya will take part in the joint exercise.
Sources in the Navy told TNIE that the vessel was docked near INS Kadamba Naval Base on Friday when the fire broke out. Even as the fire-fighting exercise was underway, it was pulled towards the Karwar harbour. Many passersby, who noticed thick smoke coming from the vessel, stopped their vehicles to have a look. However, they were cleared from the road by naval security personnel.
There has been a fire incident— TNIE@Bengaluru (@XpressBengaluru) April 26, 2019
onboard INS #Vikramaditya this morning when the ship was entering harbour in Karwar. It was brought under contr swiftly. But Lt Cdr DS Chauhan lost his life in the firefighting efforts. @NewIndianXpress @santwana99 @indiannavy pic.twitter.com/h8NmhGgksH
Soon after the accident, a release issued by the Indian Navy stated that the fire was brought under control by the ship’s crew in swift action, preventing any serious damage to the ship’s combat capabilities. A Board of Inquiry has been ordered to investigate into the circumstances of the incident has been ordered, it said. This is not the first time there has been an accident on the carrier. In June 2016, a Navy sailor and a civilian died after inhaling toxic gas during maintenance work on the vessel at Karwar base. The 44,400-ton carrier was commissioned in the Indian Navy in 2013 and is manned by over 1,600 officers and sailors.