Explosion at IISc lab kills research scholar

Explosion at IISc lab kills research scholar

A 32-year-old research scholar was killed while three others sustained injuries, two of them grievously at the Tata Institute at the Indian Institute of Science in Sadashivanagar on Wednesday afternoon. DH Photo

A 32-year-old research scholar was killed and three other scholars injured — two of them grievously — after a gas cylinder exploded during an experiment at the Hypersonic and Shock Wave Research Laboratory at the Indian Institute of Science in Sadashivanagar on Wednesday afternoon.

The deceased has been identified as Manoj Kumar, a resident of Manyata Tech Park and a native of Mysuru. The injured were Athulya Uday Kumar, Naresh Kumar and Karthik Shenoy. All four were part of a startup, Super-Wave Technology Pvt Ltd, incubated, promoted and managed by Prof K P J Reddy and Prof G Jagadeesh, both professors of Department of Aerospace Engineering, IISc.




According to the Fire and Emergency officials, the incident happened around 2.20 pm when the four scholars were conducting an experiment near the Hypersonic Shock Tunnel 2 where they were drawing hydrogen gas from a cylinder for their experiment. The laboratory has gas cylinders containing nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen and helium. Manoj Kumar was in close proximity to the cylinder. “The blast may have been caused by a spark triggered by variations in the percentage of gases released and drawn from the cylinder,” a senior fire official told DH quoting Prof Jagadeesh.

According to Prof Jagadeesh, pressure gases are used regularly in the lab. “It is unfortunate that this accident occurred. This is the first accident in 40 years. All safety measures were in place and we don’t know what caused the explosion. This is one of the leading labs of the world,” he said. SWTPL had signed an agreement with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation in which they were researching ways to replace hydraulic fracturing, a water intensive process for shale gas extraction, with shockwave-based fracking. 

“It was an explosion without fire or smoke. However, we are yet to decipher what set it off. Hydrogen is stored in many labs around the campus and these industrial-sized cylinders are sturdy and don’t succumb to simple pressure,” he said.

The blast’s impact was such that Manoj Kumar was thrown up and his body hit a wall and was dismembered inside the laboratory killing him on the spot. Hearing the blast, students and faculty members rushed to the laboratory and found three scholars lying injured. Naresh Kumar and Karthik Shenoy were soon brought outside the laboratory by other scholars while Athulya managed to walk out of the lab. Fire and Emergency Services rushed to the spot and cordoned off the area. Ambulances shifted the three victims to M S Ramaiah Hospital while Manoj Kumar’s body was shifted to the morgue.

According to doctors at the hospital, Athulya Uday Kumar sustained multiple facial wounds, and an open wound over his left shoulder and back. Naresh Kumar suffered a bilateral puncture wound over his chest, a right arm open wound and questionable fracture, right leg fracture with an open wound and questionable abdominal injury. Karthik Shenoy suffered a large laceration wound over right flank and left buttock, skin loss and multiple lacerations to the right side of the face. His CT abdomen showed a foreign body splinter in his intestine and suspected inhalation injury.

The police, along with the state FSL team, have camped at the Hypersonic and Shock Wave research Centre to ascertain the exact reason for the explosion. Senior police officials including additional commissioner of police B K Singh and DCP central D Devraj are supervising the investigations. Additional police personnel were deputed at the institute for security.

The Sadashivanagar police have taken up a case and are investigating.

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