Sailor missing from warship, family cries foul

April 22nd, 2009 - 7:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, April 22 (IANS) A sailor has been reported missing since April 12 from on board the Indian Navy guided missile frigate INS Godavari around 90-nautical miles off the coast in the Arabian Sea, with his family crying foul after his body couldn’t be found even after a 72-hour search and rescue operation.
In a statement here Wednesday, a defence spokesman said that a board of enquiry has been constituted to look into the disappearance of Prem Prakash (37), posted as a petty officer on board the warship.

INS Godavari, with over 300 officers and sailors on board, was sailing from Kochi to Mumbai when the incident occurred. He last reported duty on the night of April 11-12.

The Indian Navy also organized a 72-hour long search and rescue operation, deploying three ships, a Dornier aircraft and a helicopter, covering the sea and shore between the Karwar and Goa coast, the spokesman added.

The Indian Navy and Prakash’s family had lodged separate complaints with the Yellowgate Police Station on April 15.

However, Prakash’s family members suspect foul play and plan to “take all further actions in the matter, including contacting the chief of naval staff, after the enquiry report is submitted,” his brother-in-law V. Pandey told IANS.

The anxious relatives include Prakash’s wife Usha, their two sons aged 13 and 10 and a daughter aged 11. The couple was married in 1991 and the family lives in Navy Nagar in south Mumbai.

Pandey said that Prakash had been serving the Indian Navy for 19 years and with his experience, it was difficult to believe that he could meet with an accident and nobody was aware of it.

“There is a 24-hour watch duty on the ship precisely to look for such incidents, people or things falling off the ship, but they apparently saw nothing,” he added.

“My sister Usha was tersely informed about the incident on April 13 by some naval officials and thereafter, there was no further news. We even wrote to the navy to highlight the incident to enable the general public trace him out,” Pandey said.

Recounting the details, Pandey said that as per the information given by the Indian Navy here, Prakash was on duty on the night of April 11-12. Another colleague on duty went off complaining of a headache and later Prakash went on a short inspection round of the ship as he was supposed to go off duty by 4 a.m.

After going off duty, Prakash did not go to his bunk to rest, nor was he seen anywhere on the ship, nobody noticed his absence, nor was he present when the change of duty took place, according to Pandey.

“Later, a sailor claimed to have seen him at 5.45 a.m. and another person claimed to have seen him in the ship canteen at 8 a.m. Later, they both appeared confused, so the matter remains a mystery,” Pandey said.

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