Umang Singh and Partha Bag, the two research fellows at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), died even before they could cry for help said Dr Tulsi Mukherjee, director of the chemistry group of BARC.
Singh and Bag were charred to death in a fire in a laboratory at BARC on Tuesday afternoon.
Mukherjee said that no one realised that the two researchers were dead until the fire was put out.
The lab, located in room number 160, is under photochemistry division and was opened on Tuesday morning after it was freshly painted. Mukherjee said a loud ‘thud’ was heard and when people rushed to the lab it was on fire. “Some media reports said that a nitrogen cylinder had exploded.
It is completely false,” said Mukherjee. “The cylinder along with the carbon dioxide cylinder is intact. Even the refrigerator’s compressor is intact.”
He said the victim’s bodies were identified immediately because Bag was plump while Umang was tall and lean. Bag’s body was found near the door while Umang’s body was inside.
The cause of the fire has still not been established. “Experts [at BARC] have said that the electrical circuit was well protected and could not have caused the fire,” Mukherjee said. He added that the experiment the duo was working on — cure for cancer — did not require them to light anything.
“They were working on anti-oxidants from herbal extracts,” Mukherjee said. He added that the rules do not say a guide needs to be present at all times. “An individual cannot carry out any experiments alone and at the time of the accident there were two of them in the lab so there is no question of any rule being flouted,” Mukherjee said.
He ruled out sabotage. Even sniffer dogs did not find anything. Mukherjee also clarified media reports about Umang having been through a similar incident a week back. “In room number 155, two bottles broke and smoke started coming out,
Umang only tried to put it out and in the process his hand got too close to the chemicals and he suffered minor burns on them,” Mukherjee said.
He said that the incident has shaken up those at BARC. Indira Priyadarshini, the victims’ guide, remembered both Umang and Partha as “very hard working and extremely obedient boys”.