A 28-year-old Australian naval sailor was reported to have died of a gunshot wound on board a defence vessel, HMAS Toowoomba, on Monday. The Mumbai police were not officially informed about the incident till Monday evening, and the time of death as well as the name of the sailor is not known.
The ship was to set sail from Mumbai to its base in Perth, Australia, on Tuesday, but a decision will now be taken after members from the internal investigation service of the Royal Australian Navy visit it. The officers were expected to arrive in Mumbai on Monday night.
Tanaji Ghadge, deputy commissioner (port zone), said, "I have not been informed about any such incident. It is necessary for all ships to report such occurrences within our jurisdiction." Sources said the sailor was alone in his cabin at the time, and it will take some time to ascertain if the shot fired was accidentally or if it was deliberate.
The Anzac-class frigate was on its way back to Australia after being deployed in the Persian Gulf for six months to support anti-piracy operations in the region. It had docked in Mumbai on Friday to engage with the Indian Navy to enhance ties and cooperation. The crew of INS Tabar was playing host to its Australian counterpart.
The defence statement said that support is being provided to the sailor's family and counselling is being offered to his crewmates. "The Chief of Navy and all members of the Navy are saddened by the loss and offer their condolences to the family," it added.
HMAS Toowoomba, which has 190 crew members on board, had served in the piracy-prone region as part of the Combined Maritime Forces - a 25-nation naval partnership to ensure piracy is kept at bay.