Durlov Gogoi, former goalkeeper of the Assam state football team and OIL FC – the football unit of Oil India Limited (OIL) based in Duliajan, Assam – was among two firefighters killed during containment efforts after a gas well blowout in Baghjan, Assam’s Tinsukia district.
The bodies of Gogoi and fellow OIL firefighter Tikeshwar Gohain were recovered on Wednesday, a day after the duo jumped into a pond near the well site to escape from engulfing fires and subsequently went missing. Two other firefighters – one from OIL and another from ONGC – had also plunged into the pool but managed to escape unscathed.
The Baghjan gas well blowout caught fire on Tuesday morning, 14 days after the leakage began. It had led to mass evacuation from nearby areas. The well site is located in the ecologically sensitive Dibru-Saikhowa National Park.
Jitu Chetry, team manager of the OIL FC team, is also part of the firefighters’ team engaged near the well site. “We are also part of the voluntary team and were supposed to be working there today. When we were receiving our basic training, both Durlov and Mr. Gohain were assisting us,” he said.
Chetry, former goalkeeper with East Bengal and OIL, was a teammate of Gogoi when the Duliajan-based team competed in the I-League 2nd Division for many seasons till 2010. They also played in the state team together.
“One of the firefighters who escaped alive managed to avoid the deeper parts of the pool, while the other clutched on to a pipe and managed to avoid drowning,” Chetry explained.
“Durlov was an absolute gentleman. We had played for many years together, even got our jobs at almost the same time. It’s difficult to explain how big this loss is,” he added. “It was already a difficult time for him. His mother had passed away just some six months back.”
Durga Boro, who played for Chruchill Brothers and Shillong Lajong in the I-League and NorthEast United in the Indian Super League (ISL), said he is devastated by the death of his former OIL and Assam teammate. “We had known each other since we were boys. I was with the Guwahati centre of Sports Authority of India (SAI) and he was in the Golaghat centre. So we played and trained many times even before we played for OIL and Assam,” said Boro, who is now the secretary of the All Assam Football Players’ Association.
“I had come to know yesterday that he had gone missing in a pond. I couldn’t sleep last night because I knew he that he couldn’t swim. It’s extremely painful,” he added.
Gumpe Rime, one of the most prominent goalkeepers from the northeastern region, also expressed his condolences. “He was much younger than me and we never played together. But I do know most of the OIL players during his time; I played with many of them myself. I am really saddened by this tragic death and the horrific incident. We have lost a goalkeeper friend who had served his state as well as his employers OIL Duliajan in numerous glories,” Rime said.
Gogoi is survived by his wife and his nine-year-old son.