Leg sawed off, diver body pulled out

Mukesh’s brother-in-law Lalit Kumar. (Mita Ray)
Mukesh’s brother-in-law Lalit Kumar. (Mita Ray)Image: telegraphindia.com

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Purulia, Dec. 16: Diver Mukesh Kumar’s right leg was sawed off and his lifeless body pulled out, 72 hours after his foot got sucked into a drainage pipe in an underwater chamber.

“All efforts were made to save him but we regret that they failed,” said Surajit Dutta, the project manager of a Purulia hydel power project where Mukesh had come as part of a team assigned to repair an underwater leak.

When his body, bound by a rope, emerged from a 120ft vertical tunnel, the right leg was missing from the top of the knee.

The suction at the mouth of the drainage pipe was so great that it had drawn in the leg till almost the thigh, though it was only till the ankle that his had foot got stuck initially.

Two divers went down at 11.50am for the final mission. Santosh Bhuniya and Sanyasi Rao memorised the number of steps to be climbed and turns to be taken to reach the chamber with the help of those who had ventured into it earlier.

In the dark, flooded chamber, Mukesh was anchored in the foot but his torso wavered with the current created by openings in other drainage pipes.

It was a daunting task, especially for Rao. The man from Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, had to cut Mukesh’s leg to retrieve the body.

“We had worked together on a number of missions before. We have known each other for many years. Never had I thought I would one day have to do this,” a somewhat shaken Rao said after coming up.

Bhuniya, from Barrackpore, near Calcutta, could not recall another such experience.

The leader of the Barrackpore divers, Ganesh Das, said Mukesh appeared to have made some mistakes while going down on Sunday. “He was not wearing flippers. Had he been wearing them, his foot would not have got stuck. He also took a wrong step inside the chamber,” Das said.

Mukesh had 10 years of diving experience and the Mumbai company which had assigned him the job had described him as one of their best.

Mukesh’s brother-in-law Lalit Kumar, who came from Visakhapatnam, was angry that he could not be pulled out yesterday.

“Why did the team from Barrackpore take a whole day to arrive (it reached on Monday night)? Why didn’t the Mumbai firm requisition the Rajahmundry divers earlier? Why couldn’t his leg be amputated on Monday itself, while he was alive?” he asked.

Contacted in Mumbai, C.K. Baruah, project manager of Grafftech Marine & Engineering, said amputation was the last resort and a move not without complications. “We had to eliminate all other options and proceed step by step,” he said.

Officials of the Purulia Pumped Storage Project said the task of locating and repairing the leak had been shelved for the time being.


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