A 30-year-old navy officer died on Friday morning as he valiantly fought a blaze onboard aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya when India’s largest and most expensive warship was pulling into Karwar harbor in Karnataka, a navy spokesperson said.
Lieutenant Commander DS Chauhan courageously led the firefighting efforts in the affected compartment of India’s only aircraft carrier and succeeded in controlling the fire but lost consciousness due to the thick smoke, the spokesperson added.
Senior navy officials, who did not wish to be identified, said that had the fire spread it could have had disastrous consequences for the 44,500-tonne warship and its crew. The 284 meters by 60-meter carrier can carry a crew of 1,600, including 110 officers.
Chauhan was swiftly evacuated to INHS Patanjali, the naval hospital at Karwar, but could not be revived. A specialist in nuclear, biological, and chemical defense, including damage control and firefighting, Chauhan was from Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh and got married just over a month ago. He is survived by his mother and wife.
“Chauhan put himself in harm’s way fully knowing it could prove fatal for him. Officers and men like him make our navy what it is… always mission ready,” said one of the officials cited above.
Navy spokesperson Captain DK Sharma said the carrier did not suffer any damage.
“The fire was brought under control by the ship’s crew in a swift action preventing any serious damage affecting the ship’s combat capability,” Sharma said, adding that the Navy has ordered a board of inquiry to investigate the circumstances that led to the incident.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the aircraft carrier to the nation on June 14, 2014, in his first engagement outside Delhi after being sworn in as PM on May 26.
The $2.33-billion Russian-made aircraft carrier, formerly known as Admiral Gorshkov, was commissioned into the navy in November 2013 at Severodvinsk in Russia, almost 20 years after India began negotiations to buy the warship. Apart from MiG-29K fighter planes, the warship also carries Kamov-31 and Chetak helicopters.
INS Vikramaditya stands 20 stories tall from the keel to its highest point.