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THE FINNISH GROUP OF THE FORMER JOINT ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION COMMISSION
MEMORANDUM SEPTEMBER 24 1999
SUGGESTIONS OF BOMBS ONBOARD M/V ESTONIA
During the last year, European media has presented suggestions that bombs would have been placed onboard the ESTONIA before her capsizing and sinking on September 28 1994. The Swedish TV-4 reported in a program on August 10 1999 that the German Expert Group investigating the accident on behalf of the German Jos. L. Meyer shipyard, builders of the ESTONIA, is going to tell that a bomb has been found in the ESTONIA's hull in a report to be published in September. TV-4 also showed a picture of the alleged bomb.
Already earlier in December 1998 the Swedish Aftonbladet published news that there is an object suspected to be a bomb above a window on the ESTONIA's side.
Suspected orange coloured object in the ESTONIA's ramp opening
The Swedish TV-4 showed on August 10 1999 also a picture of an object that is claimed to be a bomb. The picture was taken from a videotape showing the ESTONIA's wreck. The videotape had been made by the Finnish Coast Guard for the Joint Accident Investigation Commission (JAIC). In the videotape picture, the object claimed to be a bomb has an orange colour. The object is later called a "box". The box is visible in frames taken on October 9 1994 at 2316 hrs. Appendix 1 shows a video print where the object can be seen.
The Finnish delegation of the JAIC has been studying the videotapes in order to find out what the box in question could be. The following conclusions can be made on the basis of the video material:
"At the moment in question, the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) used in making the underwater videotapes, is monitoring the space between the vessel hull and the partly open bow ramp on the port side. The visor and ramp side locks were close to this site. The vessel's mooring lines can be seen near the box on its both sides going into the ramp opening. On the basis of the visible mooring lines and shadows, the box is not fastened onto the vessel's hull or to the ramp. Because the diameter of a standard mooring line is a little under 10 cm, the dimensions of the box may be estimated by comparing the box to a line. Appendix 2 shows a video print where objects near the box have been made clearer. Names of the objects have been marked.
"When the ESTONIA sank stern first, the air remaining in the car deck space flowed out through the partly open ramp sides. At the same time, loose floating objects on the car deck, like mattress overlays and wooden pallets, drifted with the rising water towards the openings at the ramp sides. Some objects came out while some remained trapped at the sides.
"It is known on the basis of the videotapes that pallets floated up towards the bow on the car deck.. During the diving operation carried out by divers of the Norwegian Rockwater A/S in December 1994, pallets had to be moved aside to allow the free movement of divers.
"After the accident a pallet was observed in a service space on the side of the ramp. It can be seen on a videotape made by the Finnish Coast Guard during the ROV inspection on October 2 1994 at 1433 hrs. In the picture this pallet is upside down and most clearly can be seen the central bottom board with blocks. The side bottom board and the blocks are missing. A video print of this pallet is in Appendix 3.
"When the size of the "box" is being estimated on the basis of a mooring line's diameter, the "box" size agrees well with size of a pallet's block. Above the "box" is a protruding part the shape and dimensions of which closely resemble a bottom board fastened to a block. The protruding part is not rectangular, which means that the board may have been twisted. It can however be understood that when a pallet breaks, joints may become dislocated. According to the video print the board would extend both at the end and at the side over the edges of the block. This feature however exists in pallets; for instance the edge of the central bottom board in the pallet in Appendix 3 extends over the block edge.
"The surface of the "box" is not smooth but it looks like uneven, rough. Also colour variations can be seen in the surface.
"The head of the Finnish Coast Guard ROV inspection group has stated that in 1994 when the ROV and video technologies were not on the present level, videotapes made underwater using artificial lighting easily received wrong tones of colour. If reflecting red surfaces were near, the objects in the picture could easily receive a shade of red. It is fully possible that for instance a new wood surface looks reddish under these conditions. The considerations presented above strongly support the assumption that the "box" is part of a broken pallet of which can be seen one block and a bottom board fastened to it. The surface of the "box" looks like wooden. The uncontroversial position of the "box" in the ramp opening closes out the theory presented in the media that it would be an object attached to the hull by a magnetic fastening device. No indications of objects involved in explosive technology have been observed in the neighbourhood of the "box".
The object suggested to be a bomb that was found on the ESTONIA's side above a window
The Swedish Aftonbladet published in December news that there is an object that is suspected to be a bomb on the ESTONIA's side on the lower edge of a window.
A picture of the object suggested to be a bomb is on a videotape made by the Norwegian Rockwater A/S on December 3 1994 at 1832 hrs to 1833 hrs. At that time Rockwater was video inspecting the ESTONIA's wreck for the Swedish Government and the Joint Accident Investigation Commission. The window, on the lower edge of which the object is lying, is the ninth window from the bow on the level of deck 6. Appendix 4 shows a video print of this object suggested to be a bomb. The Finnish group of JAIC has also tried to find out what the object in question could be. Studies of the videotapes show that the object could not have been in its place immediately after the accident on October 2 1994. The Finnish Coast Guard made that day a videotape showing the same site of the wreck and the object in question cannot be seen on the videotape.
The Finnish group of JAIC has asked both from the Rockwater personnel who participated in the diving operation and seamen who have worked on the ESTONIA when she was sailing under the Finnish flag under a different name, if they have any recollections whether the object in question could be an object which was used during the diving operation or on board in service. No one has been able to give any clarifying information.
The Finnish group's assumption is that the object in question may be a folded light plastic cover - a tarpaulin - which for some reason could have drifted with currents above the window in question. During the accident it could not have been at the same site as on December 3 1994.
Conclusions presented in the JAIC's Final Report are still fully valid and in our opinion an explosion as a possible cause or contributing factor in the accident is totally closed out.