The investigation by the Sadashivnagar police into the blast at Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science (IISc), in which a 32-year-old research intern was killed, has ruled out sabotage.
32-year-old research intern Manoj Kumar died in the blast at IISc's Aerospace Engineering Department’s Laboratory for Hypersonic and Shock Wave Research on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the police, four interns, who were post-graduate M.Tech students, were conducting an experiment in the lab when the incident occurred. The four men, interning with Superwave Technology Private Limited, were handling pressurised hydrogen, oxygen, helium and nitrogen gases.
The victim, Manoj Kumar, a native of Mysuru’s Kollegal area, was standing close to the hydrogen cylinder, which is said to have burst. He died immediately due to the impact. His co-workers - Karthik Shenoy, Naresh Kumar and Athulya Uday Kumar - were grievously injured and were rushed to MS Ramaiah Hospital.
“His (Manoj) body was thrown 20 feet away from where he was standing due to the impact,” the Sadashivanagar police told said.
Police have stated that while no major fire broke out after the incident, most of the equipment in the laboratory has been destroyed.
“Prima facie, it looks like the hydrogen cylinder exploded when Manoj was testing variations in pressure. The four men were setting up an experiment that involved supersonic shockwaves. A mixture of these high-pressure gases is highly combustible. It looks like when the experiment was being conducted, it may have triggered a small spark which set off the hydrogen gas and the cylinder exploded. A forensic team has taken stock of the situation and the exact cause of death will be known after the FSL report arrives,” the police added.
At around 2.20 pm, students present in another lab on the same floor heard glass shatter and saw smoke coming out of the lab. When they rushed to the spot, they saw that two of the interns were trying to get out of the lab and were injured.
The students immediately rushed them to the hospital. They also called the Aerospace Department and informed the faculty that they saw smoke coming out of the shockwave lab. The Department Authorities immediately called the Fire Department, who then informed the police.
After the police arrived, Manoj’s body was brought out of the lab and was taken for postmortem.
Speaking to TNM, Manoj’s wife Anusha has blamed IISc authorities claiming laxity in issuing safety equipment to researchers.
“When the students informed the faculty about the smoke, it took the security guards 20 minutes to find where it was coming from. There were no first aid kits or even a fire extinguisher inside that lab. There were no CCTV cameras. Manoj used to tell us about how the institute was great but he had also complained about how their security was very lax,” Anusha said.
However, IISc’s security officer Chandrashekhar has stated that the institute had taken all precautionary measures. “There was no fire in the lab, only gas cylinders were there. Once the investigation is done, everything will be revealed,” he added.