Two fishermen still missing as Navy calls off search

The body of one of the three fishermen who went missing after a ship rammed their vessel off the Thottappally coast in Kerala in the early hours of Thursday was found by naval divers inside the wreckage of the sunken vessel, Don-I, about 15 nautical miles off Manakkodam, near Cherthala, here on Sunday.

The body, identified as that of Santosh (28), of Pallithottam in Kollam, was found entangled in nets at 10.30 a.m. by a 10-member Navy Clearance Diving team of the Southern Naval Command.

The team began search operations inside the vessel and in its vicinity on Sunday morning after the boat was traced near the Cherthala coast by INS Sarvekshak on Friday night using side scan sonars.

The body was handed over to fishermen on boats to be brought ashore to the Thottappally harbour, from where it was shifted to the Alappuzha Medical College for post-mortem examination. It was handed over to his relatives at 5.30 p.m.

Death toll up to 3

With this, the death toll in the accident has gone up to three, with Xavier and Justin being killed on Thursday. Two others, Michael and Joseph, survived the accident while Bernard of Pallithottam and Cleetus of Puthenthura, Kollam, are still missing.

The Navy team, which continued the search after Santosh's body was found, called off the operation at dusk, stating that there were no signs of more bodies within the wreckage. Indications are that the team will not attempt to retrieve the wreckage.

However, the search for Bernard and Cleetus would be taken up by the Coast Guard's ICGS Lakshmibai which, along with other ICGS vessels, including ICGS Savitribai Phule, were involved in the search since Thursday. The search is likely to continue till March 8.

The police team set up to probe the accident is awaiting confirmation on the ship that rammed Don-I.

According to Alappuzha Dy S.P. K. Mahesh Kumar, bulk carrier m.v. Prabhu Daya, a prime suspect as it was in the vicinity of the accident spot, was expected to reach Chennai by Tuesday and after the Mercantile Marine Department officials complete their examinations, the police would move in with the rest of the procedures.

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