Four Navymen still missing after vessel sank last night

Four Navymen still missing after vessel sank last night
A day after a Naval vessel sank off the Vishakhapatnam coast, a full scall search operation was underway to trace the four missing sailors, including an officer, and an inquiry has been set up to look into the cause of the mishap.

One sailor, James Jacob, died in the accident that hit the Torpedo Recovery Vessel last night while 23 were rescued.

Four personnel were still missing. They include a Commanding-level officer, two divers and a crew member.

The vessel had sunk at 8 PM last night while it was on a "routine" mission to recover dummy torpedoes fired by fleet ships during a "routine" exercise, the Navy said.

A Board of Inquiry has been set up to look into the cause of the mishap that hit the Navy which saw a series of accidents in a span of few months in the second half of last year and beginning of this year.

Nine ships of the Eastern fleet and a few aircraft including Boeing P81, Dorniers, SKG 42C with night vision capabilities and Chetak helicopters have been deployed through the night to search for missing personnel, Navy spokesperson D K Sharma said.

Citing preliminary information, the Navy sources said the "probable reason" for the sinking of the vessel seems to be ingress of sea-water in the Engine room and Aft Steering compartment. This, they said, could have been because one of the seals in the shaft gave way.

"The Board of Inquiry headed by a Captain will go into all aspects of the accident," a senior Naval officer said.

In view of the accident, Navy Chief Admiral R K Dhowan, who is on a four-day visit to Seychelles till November 9, is cutting short his visit to reach Visakhapatnam.

This particular ship was built by Goa Shipyard Limited in 1983 and has served the Navy for the last 31 years.

Sources said the average age of a ship is usually 20-25 years but there has been cases when older ships have continued to be in service for longer.

The ship, which sank at a depth of 370 metres, had undergone 27 refits including 3 mid-life upgrades, the sources said. The last such major upgrade was done on January 15, 2013 in which about 20 tonne of steel was replaced.

They, however, claimed that the vessel was "well maintained". The Navy had released a statement last night saying that there were 28 personnel on board at the time of accident.

The maximum load of this vessel is about a crew of 13 but sources said operational requirements have to be factored in.

At the time of the accident, there were also scientists from Navy's NSDL lab and members of naval armaments inspection team, sources said.

"One sailor has lost his life during the rescue operation and four personnel are reported missing. Twenty three personnel have been rescued safely by the Search and Rescue (SAR) ships dispatched to the area," the Navy statement said.

The latest accident is one of the many in the series that the Navy has witnessed over the last one year.

The then Navy Chief D K Joshi quit on February 27 in the wake of a series of accidents that took place in the preceding eight months. Among the major mishaps was a fire on INS Sindhuratna, which left two sailors dead.

On October 31, INS Kora suffered minor damage after it was scraped by a merchant vessel near Visakhapatnam.

This freak accident has raised eyebrows in the defence establishment since a naval ship is bound to be alert all the time when it is out in the sea. They have radars on board which warns of nearby ships.
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