Two days after a 60-year-old man, V. Jayakumar, was hit by a stray bullet in Irumbulliyur and injured, Indian Air Force (IAF) officials said it was highly unlikely that the bullet came from their base, located nearby.
Police however, said instances of bullets straying into areas adjacent to the base were quite common. They said the bullet was determined to be of 9 mm calibre.
A firing practice session had been held for trainees at the IAF base in Tambaram on Monday, and 9 mm pistols were used between 11 a.m. and 12.30 p.m., police said. Jayakumar was injured around 12.30 p.m.
Jayakumar, a resident of Irumbuliyur, was returning to his home on Senthil Kumaran Street, Thilakavathy Nagar, when a bullet hit his left knee.
A former contractor who has worked at the IAF base, Jayakumar said: “I felt an acute pain in my knee. I first thought some children who were playing in the area had thrown a stone at me, and I shouted at them.”
By the time he got home, Jayakumar was bleeding profusely.
“My trousers were completely soaked and blood was dripping all over the house,” he said.
Padmavathy, his wife said they did not what to do or where to take him. Finally, with help from neighbours, Jayakumar was taken to a private hospital in Tambaram, and later to Tambaram Taluk Government Hospital in Chromepet. From there, he was referred to Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.
“It felt as if my knee was on fire. After doctors confirmed that it was a bullet, I could feel it embedded under the skin. It was not until 10 p.m. on Monday that a minor surgery was performed to remove the bullet,” Jayakumar said.
He returned home on Tuesday evening and is now recovering from the surgery. As information spread, a steady stream of visitors called on him all through Wednesday. Though he is able to walk with support, Jayakumar said he was in constant pain.
While officers at the base in Tambaram refused to comment, a spokesperson for the ministry of defence from New Delhi, said it was not possible that a bullet from any weapon used during the practice session could travel far enough to hurt someone outside the base.
He said the distance between the firing range and the compound wall was 900 metres, and that the spot where Jayakumar was hit was roughly a kilometre from the compound wall. It was impossible for a bullet to travel that far.
The firing range also had safety wall that was 25 feet wide and the outer compound wall was 10 metres high, he pointed out. Even bullets fired from a sophisticated weapon such as a sten carbine machine gun could not travel that far and cause an injury, he added.
Peerkankaranai police officers, however, said that several women living close to the base had told them about bullets falling close to their houses. They had also recovered bullet fragments in such cases, they said.
Police said the bullet would now be sent to the forensic science department for ballistic tests.