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15 Dec 2019, 13:16 HRS IST
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  • PTI
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  • HVF orders probe into mishap which killed Armyman

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17:33 HRS IST

Chennai, Aug 17 (PTI) Heavy Vehicles Factory here today ordered a probe into a mishap during the trial of a battle tank in which an Armyman died, defence sources said.

Siva Sakthivel, a soldier in the rank of Naik, and a native of Theni District of Tamil Nadu became unconscious after he inhaled "Halon" a liquefied, compressed gas used for fire fighting inside the T-72 tank, and later died yesterday.

He was taken out of the tank by HVF personnel and rushed to a hospital within the factory at suburban Avadi and from there to a government hospital where he was declared dead, the sources said.

HVF, the flagship battle tank manufacturing facility under the Ordnance Factory Board of Ministry of Defence, has constituted a Panel of Inquiry to go into the cause of the mishap and the probe has just begun, sources told PTI.

The panel includes officials drawn from HVF here and the Directorate General of Quality Assurance.

The mishap occurred during testing of T-72 battle tank outside the factory in the trial ground premises yesterday.

During testing of the tank, driver Sakthivel was inside tank and the hatch was closed.

The tank has a fire fighting system inside, comprising three cylinders containing Halon gas.

The fire fighting system got operationalised, the sources said, adding, it was however not known if it was switched on by Sakthivel or whether it turned into "operation mode" automatically.

They said only the probe which has been ordered will reveal the reason for the system going operational.

Sources said soon after the release of gas, the driver should have pressed the emergency button to exit as the tank's hatch was closed.

Explaining further, the sources said if he had pressed the emergency button it would have led to turning of the rotary turret on top of the tank, facilitating opening up of the hatch. However, apparently he did not do so and why he did not was not known.

In "hatch-closed," conditions, it will be difficult to open up the hatch since the main gun will be in front of the driver and during such conditions the emergency button is used, they said.

It has now emerged that two others in the "crew compartment of the tank," were not affected though they could have partially inhaled the gas. One was an HVF employee and other from the Directorate General of Quality Assurance.

Sakthivel was in the driver's compartment.

Sources said though the gas was not toxic, inhaling it in huge volume may have affected him badly. However, the cause of death is not known and it could be inferred only from the post-mortem report which is awaited.

On the trial, they said it was routine in nature and was done to familiarise drivers with the operation of the tank.

Local police have also registered a case and are investigating.

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