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Jakarta Post

Fire kills 4 inside hyperbaric chamber

  • Agnes Anya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, March 15, 2016   /  09:07 am

A fire engulfed a high-pressure air cylinder at Mintohardjo Navy Hospital in Bendungan Hilir, Central Jakarta, on Monday, killing four people, including a police general.

The fire reportedly broke out after an electrical short circuit occurred in the cylinder, which is usually used to treat patients with decompression sickness. At the time, four patients were inside the cylinder '€” also known as a hyperbaric chamber '€” assisted by an operator, who remained outside.

It was reported that prior to the fire breaking out, the doctor and patients started a therapy session at 11:30 a.m. with the cylinder machine set at a certain pressure. At 1 p.m., the therapy continued at a reduced pressure. Ten minutes later, a fire broke out in the cylinder.

The operator tried to open the chamber using its fire emergency system but was unable to. The fire then caused an explosion, which killed the patients and damaged the room where the cylinder was located.

At 2 p.m., the authorities managed to extinguish the fire and removed the victims'€™ bodies, taking them to the hospital'€™s mortuary.

They also transferred officers and visitors who were in the room when the fire occurred to the emergency room for treatment for smoke inhalation.

Navy spokesperson Cdre. M. Zainuddin said the hospital had never before experienced such an accident as the chamber was in good condition.

'€œWe just faced the accident this afternoon. Therefore, representing the Navy and Mintohardjo hospital, we apologize to Indonesians. We did not expect this to happen,'€ Zainuddin said.

He said hyperbaric chambers are used to help recover fitness. The Navy'€™s elite Frogmen Command (Kopaska) members use the chamber to recover after diving by increasing the oxygen in their bodies. Civilians are also able use the cylinder for the same purpose.

He added that the National Police'€™s forensics laboratory (Puslabfor), in cooperation with the Navy'€™s Military Police (Pomal), had carried out an investigation but was yet to confirm the cause of the short circuit.

Zainuddin said the victims were former Insp. Gen. Abubakar Nataprawira, 65, medical doctor Dimas, 28, Edi Suwandi, 67, and Sulistyo, 54.

Abubakar was a former National Police spokesman, while Sulistyo was head of the Indonesian Teachers Union (PGRI) and served as a Regional Representatives Council (DPD) member in Central Java.

Sulistyo'€™s relative Abduh Zen confirmed the death to Antara news agency. He said Sulistyo had been undergoing oxygen therapy using the chamber following a respiratory problem.

Navy Health Agency head Col. Lukman said the operator had ensured that no patients undergoing the therapy carried any metal belongings, which could cause abnormalities with the machine.

He added that the difference in pressure inside and outside the cylinder contributed to the fatalities. According to him, the chamber door could be opened once the pressure in both areas was the same.

Moreover, he said, the operator had tried to save the patients'€™ lives by turning on a sprinkler system. However, the fire engulfed the machine too quickly for the water to extinguish it.

Separately, Education and Culture Minister Anies Baswedan visited the hospital following the news of Sulistyo'€™s death.

He told reporters that he had seen the victim, who appeared healthy, earlier in the day for a meeting with DPD members.

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