Mumbai, Aug. 17: The post-mortems on all five bodies recovered from the INS Sindhurakshak have been completed and the Navy has given top priority to identifying them by DNA profiling, official sources said.
The fifth body was found last night by naval divers after they prised open the submarine’s rear hatch. The bodies were then sent to JJ Hospital where a specially requisitioned team of doctors did the post-mortems and preserved viscera samples.
“The post-mortem process was completed at 5.30am. We have taken DNA samples and dental marks from the bodies. We have sent the samples to the State Forensic Science Laboratory at Kalina. The scientists there will match the DNA profiles of the dead personnel with blood samples from their parents or close relatives,” T.P. Lahane, the dean of the state-run JJ Hospital, said.
According to post-mortem findings, all deaths occurred because of severe burning and subsequent drowning. While the bodies were completely charred, the tissues and internal organs were found intact. X-ray and CT scans did not show shrapnel in any of the bodies.
A primary and second explosion had rocked the submarine in the early hours of August 14, trapping 18 personnel inside the vessel. Three personnel on watch duty on top of the submarine escaped by jumping off the vessel.
A source said it could take a minimum of 72 hours to match the DNA profiles. “If blood samples taken from the parents match with the DNA sample from the dead body, it is a comparatively fast process. If the samples do not match… it could take up to three weeks,” a doctor said.
Rukmini Krishnamurthy, the former director of the Kalina laboratory and now a technical consultant with the Maharashtra government, said: “DNA profiling takes time depending on the workload the laboratory is handling. Even if top priority is accorded to this, it could take a minimum of 48 hours to match the two DNA profiles.”
M.K. Malwe, the Kalina director, said the laboratory had received the DNA samples from JJ Hospital but not all the blood samples from the relatives of the five personnel.
A source from the DNA profiling section of the laboratory said: “Even if the bodies are severely disfigured and charred, DNA samples can be taken from the bones.”
Asked about reports that one body has been identified, Kochi-based Southern Command spokesperson Commander Roy Francis, who was deputed to Mumbai last night, said: “So far, I have not received any report confirming the identity of any of the five personnel.”
Western command spokesperson Narendra Vispute said search-and-rescue operations were continuing. “Navy divers are searching within the submarine by feeling each inch due to zero visibility within flooded compartments to locate the missing bodies,” he said.
A navy press release said: “Navy divers working relentlessly on board INS Sindhurakshak, gained a second access to the submarine late last night when they successfully pried open the rear escape hatch which was submerged below water and jammed due to high temperatures. This operation was challenging but critical.
“Opening of the jammed forward escape hatch is also being attempted for an entry to the front portion of the submarine. Another team worked their way into one of the forward compartments and found the fifth body of the eighteen missing late last night.”