Explosion at IIT-Bombay injures professor, 2 interns

Institute calls it minor; 3 were working on government project
IIT-Bombay, Powai.(HT FILE)
IIT-Bombay, Powai.(HT FILE)
Published on Mar 30, 2019 12:40 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By

Three people sustained burn injuries on Friday afternoon when an experiment led to a minor explosion at the aerospace department of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B). A part-time professor Tushar Jadhav and two interns, Prashant Singh and Rajat Kumar, received first aid on campus for their injuries and were later admitted to the National Burns Centre in Navi Mumbai.

“The incident took place in the main building of the aerospace department at around 12.30 pm when Tushar Jadhav and two of his interns [who are not IIT-B students] were running an experiment on a lighter-than-air airship. The airship, which was already filled with hydrogen [a combustible gas], was being further pressurised when this incident occurred,” said a spokesperson for IIT-B.

Dr SM Keswani, director of National Burns Centre, said the three were admitted around 4pm.

Jadhav and Singh suffered 16% burns and are in the intensive care unit (ICU). Kumar suffered 4% burns and is in the general ward. “We have applied artificial skin to the injuries and all three of them are stable now. Those who are in ICU have suffered lung injuries too. They will be kept there for four days and will be shifted after that,” said Dr Keswani. Jadhav is a former dual-degree student of IIT-B and a part-time professor in the chemical engineering department. The airship experiment was part of a project by Jadhav’s firm, Manastu Space, incubated at the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SINE), IIT-B. The two interns were working with Jadhav and were on campus as part of a government-sponsored project.

While the institute described it as a “minor incident”, students have raised concerns over safety precautions implemented by the institute. Students who arrived at the scene soon after the explosion said none of the three appeared to be wearing protective gear.

“By the time I reached the spot, I could see fire and smoke and one of the injured students went running to the bathroom to pour water on himself. Meanwhile, someone brought the fire extinguishers to douse the fire,” said one student.

“The incident occurred in the lobby of the main aerospace engineering department building, despite there being separate laboratories for combustible gases. We don’t know who gave them authority to conduct the experiment there, and how no one else questioned it,” said another student.


    Shreya Bhandary is a Special Correspondent covering higher education for Hindustan Times, Mumbai. Her work revolves around finding loopholes in the current education system and highlighting the good and the bad in higher education institutes in and around Mumbai.

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