Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.
'I think we should do everything in our power to re-float the ferry'
Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, 4 October 1994
'Dive examinations of the wreck have revealed (established) that the inner ramp was locked in the closed position before the accident. After the loss of the visor the ramp has been in a considerably more open position than the present position on the wreck, at least during a part of the development of the accident'
Commission press release 15 December 1994 (13) - para. 5
'It was reported that observations done during the diving (2-4 December 1994) had given more information about the course of events, which was reported in a separate report to the meeting. It was particularly reported that the ramp now is considered to have been fully open during a certain period of time. It is confirmed that the ramp locks were in the locked position with a question mark for the port lower lock pin, which was only partly pushed out into its pocket'
Commission meeting protocol 15 December 1994 (act A81a*)
1.16 A 100% manipulated Dive Survey. Mr Johan Franson. Holes in the Hull Plate censored
The dive examination of the wreck took place on 2, 3 and 4 December 1994, at the request of the Swedish government. The then legal counsel of the Swedish NMA and the present (since 1995) director of safety at sea, Johan Franson, headed the expedition to establish, if dead bodies and/or the whole wreck could be salvaged. That was the official task.47 Nothing else should be done - no salvage of parts or luggage - see below - from the wreck was decided by the Swedish government.
Johan Franson is a very interesting person in the investigation of the 'Estonia' accident. What can the head of the legal department of the Swedish NMA 1994 have to do with all this? It is easy to explain; if an accident occurs and the NMA can be held liable in any way, the head of the legal department shall be informed. And the Swedish NMA was involved
it had passed the 'Estonia' at several PSCs at Stockholm 1993-1994 (and previously 1980-1993, when the ship was under Finnish flag),
its ship inspectors were training the Estonian NMA 1994, particularly about ship safety,
it had checked the 'Estonia' for particular Swedish safety requirements 1993 and approved her for regular trading on Swedish ports (even if the ship had traded on Sweden 1980-1993),
its inspectors were the last to have been inspecting the 'Estonia' the day before the accident, when they found many defects constituting unseaworthiness, etc.,
never the Swedish NMA had attempted to arrest the 'Estonia' at PSCs in spite of obvious defects - unseaworthiness.
As a result relatives of victims later brought charges against the NMA at a court at Paris, which are still pending (January 2004).
The Estline safety superintendent Ulf Hobro, when the accident took place, was a previous NMA employee. After the accident Mr Hobro returned to the NMA - as the head of the Stockholm office - appointed by Johan Franson.
The expert, dr. Michael Huss, of the Commission, who made the falsified plot of the accident based on likewise false inflow and stability reports 1.9, was made technical director at the NMA at Norrköping in 2001 - appointed by Johan Franson. Actually the writer applied for the same job end 2000 and was actually interviewed for it (the NMA later refused to pay the expenses) and in a letter dated 9 May 2001 arriving end May he was informed by the NMA that he had not got the job - and in order to appeal this decision, please do it before 8 May (sic) 2001. The writer had not seen the official appointment made on a notice board (in the cellars of the NMA building in April 2001?). Your writer was negligent.
The NMA inspector Åke Sjöblom, who made the last inspection of the 'Estonia' on 27 October 1994 and found many defects 1.33 was appointed head of the Gothenburg office by Johan Franson.
The only way to rise in the Swedish NMA administration seems to be to sink a ferry and then lie about it. The remaining collective staff then voluntarily, Swedish style, toes the line and keep the silence.
In spite of the many apparent conflicts of interest the Swedish government 1994 asked the NMA - Franson - to investigate and report about many questions. The government knew that the NMA had made serious errors so it was easy to convince the NMA to play along. Legally Sweden had no obligations; ethically it was best not to salvage the victims, regarding salvage of the wreck it was possible but not to be recommended: to cover the wreck at the bottom of the sea was an excellent idea, 'expert' Franson advised in 1994. When the government later asked the NMA, if the questions raised in this book should be reviewed, they were of no value for safety at sea according to 'expert' Franson, etc. The great demagogue Franson today often makes references to others, when he presents his conclusions to the government - the relevant staff is properly trained.
Strangely Franson is not paid his salary by the Swedish NMA - he is paid directly by the government. Thus he has a deputy - Per Nordström whose salary is paid by the NMA. But the official NMA organisation chart is clear - all safety inspectors report to Franson - nobody to Nordström. Only Franson liases with Nordström. In the early days it was not so easy.
Reason to dive
Regarding the dive examination headed by Franson in December 1994, Franson has in a letter of 24 January 1997 to the writer explained:47
'There was only one reason for the NMA examination of the 'Estonia' in December 1994, i.e. to get information of importance for an inquiry ordered by the government from the NMA ... When the examination was planned the NMA asked the Commission through the Swedish Accident Investigation Board (SHK) if it too wanted to examine the wreck. As such was the case, the NMA made an agreement with a diving company about two investigations. The NMA does not supervise the work of the SHK. The relationship is rather the opposite.'
In a spontaneous letter of 6 February 1997 Franson added:
'The NMA decided to examine the 'Estonia' with divers, as certain information was needed for the NMA work to investigate the consequences of a decision to recover bodies of victims of the 'Estonia'. The Commission 'joined' the dive expedition after its own decision. Two independent decisions made by two authorities, not the government, were the reason for the diving.'
In both letters 'certain information' and 'information of importance' were left vague. In reality the following happened:
Johan Franson visited Tallinn on 9 November and met the chairman of the Commission, Andi Meister, probably to inform him about the Swedish government decision to dive on the 'Estonia'.
The Swedish NMA purchasing division (Mr Anders Bjäringe) then sent an inquiry about diving and underwater examination dated 10 November 1994 to eight dive companies. The job consisted of two parts - one with sonar and ROV, one with divers.
The first part was only a geological survey around the wreck to make a barymetric chart including the thickness of the mud layer, and to film the wreck on the bottom from outside by ROV. No search for bodies outside the wreck was required or specified. It was not specified that reference points were going to be fixed on the wreck so that the location of particular areas of the wreck filmed by the ROV could be determined.
The second part was a dive examination of the inside of the wreck and the outside of the bow/forward area of the superstructure. That job could be extended in scope. All observations should be video filmed. No subcontractors could be used. The contractor could not speak to the media. The offers were expected to be filed before the 21 November 1994.
Hull not examined
It is worth noting that the underwater hull should not be examined in detail e.g. for any structural damages, which requires careful marking with reference points, if ports and doors were closed, if sea inlets and valves were in order, etc. Actually - a proper examination of a hull at 80 meters depth in darkness had never been done before or later. The inquiry specification in this respect was very sloppy.
First on 16 November 1994 Franson contacted the Commission (Stenström) per letter/fax and wondered, if it wanted to examine the 'Estonia'. It was at the time of the salvage of the visor by the Swedish navy. Stenström replied by a letter/fax the 20 November (act B27) - the day after the visor had been raised - that the Commission wanted to examine damages to the bulb and on the outside of the ramp.
"The locks of the ramp should be carefully examined. A visor deck hinge bolt was going to be recovered. The position of the rudders should be verified. On the bridge the diver should salvage a GPS-computer, verify the engine controls, check the control panel of the watertight doors and collect the log/record of the engine and navigation computer. The securing arrangements of the EPIRBs on the bridge roof were to be checked."
Stenström did not request any video filming.
It is worth noting that also the Commission was not interested to examine the underwater hull for possible structural damages, open port holes or pilot doors in the superstructure, the condition of sea inlets, etc. Nor was it interested to examine the fore peak deck against which the visor had allegedly hit several times prior to its loss and on which the ramp had fallen.
The big 'object' - the steel plate on the bottom - filmed on 9-10 October was not going to be examined, nor any 'fragments' found previously.
Two examinations were thus ordered by the NMA from a company - Rockwater A/S - at the end of November 1994 - one for the NMA account (68 hours diving) including filming only about salvage of victims and/or the whole wreck, another for the Commission only about the cause of accident (31 hours diving) without filming. Total cost SEK 7.5 millions. Other companies, e.g. Stolt Comex had offered a much lower price. Why the Swedish NMA chose Rockwater A/S as contractor is not known.
Rockwater A/S - who were they?
Rockwater A/S was a wholly owned company of the American Halliburton company - a service company in offshore and oil. Halliburton is one of the largest American companies not accepting trade unions and has not a very good reputation. It is not clear why the Swedish NMA decided to use Halliburton. Its offer was not the cheapest and it had never participated in a casualty investigation. And they could not do the geological survey. It was later allegedly subcontracted to the Dutch Smit Tak company (but Smit Tak never made a geological survey - see below).
An incomplete Investigation ordered
The dive examination was not completely specified by the Swedish NMA in order to establish, if the wreck could be raised. The underwater hull was not to be examined fully, the watertight subdivision and watertight doors inside the ship hull were not to be examined at all, the car deck with 1 000 tons of cargo was not going to be inspected, ports and doors in the superstructure and sea inlets in the hull were not to be examined, etc. The qualifications of the divers were never specified nor recorded. Could they actually examine a wreck? It seems that the divers were normal underwater maintenance divers. The psychological aspects were not mentioned - the divers had to count bodies of victims inside the ship, but were they trained for that? And it was not required to make proper logs of all diving and filming activities.
Early Swedish Divers
According to the Swedish daily Expressen (22 August 2000) five Swedish divers had also examined the 'Estonia' in 1994 prior to the official dive expedition. When and why exactly the Swedish diving(s) took place is not known for certain. One of the divers was Mr Håkan Bergmark, who had observed a big hole in the ship's side, which the Commission has never reported. The Expressen had previously (990418) informed that the divers were supervised by Mr Gustav Hanuliak, who has informed that he had spent more than six weeks at the wreck - during the dives 2-4 December 1994 and later during the summer 1996. Hanuliak has cryptically told the media that he knew exactly what had happened. If Hanuliak also supervised the five Swedish divers earlier is not known and when it should have taken place is unclear. Hanuliak was appointed by Franson. This writer believes Mr Håkan Bergmark was part of the Swedish team that dived on the Estonia 30 September - 7 October 1994 and remove the visor under water and tried to open the ramp!
Mr Hanuliak has never commented upon the big hole in the starboard collision bulkhead discovered, filmed and recorded by private divers in August 2000 3.10. The official reports of the diving in December 1994 are very poor and it is difficult to know what actually happened.48
Dive Examination - at the wrong Position
The official dive examination thus started on 2 December 1994 with twelve American or British divers in place. There is no report about any Swedish divers. The examination was delayed, as the dive vessel first went to the wrong wreck position 1.14 as ordered by Franson. Franson didn't seem to know the correct wreck position. After a quick search the wreck was located 2 100 meters Southwest of the false position. The Rockwater divers then worked non-stop in four teams of three divers using two dive bells. They were connected by cable to the surface for verbal instructions, communications, air supply, etc. and the dive commander could follow on video, what was going on down below, and to give directions.
Work done for the Commission
For the Commission the following work was done by the divers as per the Final Report (5):- The rudder positions were checked (the rudders were in the full starboard location - 35°), the bulbous bow was inspected, the outside of the ramp was examined - the inside was not accessible, the locks could not be examined (sic) 3.10. One deck hinge bolt was salvaged. The fixtures of the EPIRBs on the monkey bridge were examined. The bridge was examined and some parts salvaged, e.g. the GPS. It is not stated, if the control panel of the watertight doors were examined; there are no records at all in the Final Report about watertight doors. The engine controls were full astern. Some extra works were done - the lugs of the visor Atlantic lock on the fore peak deck were cut off - they should have cut out the deck plate instead, because the Germans later alleged that the lugs had been re-positioned and re-welded on the fore peak deck. The Atlantic lock bolt (weight about 30 kilograms) was salvaged and later thrown back into the water without being filmed. The ship's bell was salvaged and brought ashore. That was all! That these jobs took 31 hours dive time is not recorded anywhere. (Actually more work was done - see below, but it was not reported).
No Films or Photos of Damages taken
No pictures/photos/films were taken of any alleged damages examined - e.g. the ripped open deck 4 forward, the damaged transverse strong frame at fr. 159, the ripped open front bulkhead port and starboard, the fore peak deck, the ramp locks, the watertight door panel, etc. The Final report (5) later only published unclear copies of video pictures of alleged damages taken by an ROV in October 1994. Evidently much better pictures could have been taken by a proper underwater photo camera.
The Rockwater Report
The report of Rockwater A/S (supplement no 503 in (5)), which is neither signed nor dated and the writer of which is anonymous, says in para 2.8 that the investigation for the Commission by Rockwater should not be reported by it. That report is probably a falsification. There are no records at all made by members of the Commission, what was actually done and who actually directed the divers to do the 'examinations' for the Commission. The persons who attended on the dive barge for the Commission and maybe directed the examinations of the Commission and reported to the Commission are unknown. Stenström and Karppinen were probably on board and also the head of the Estonian NMA, Arne Valgma. But no written reports about the diving for the Commission's account exist anywhere. Everything seems to have been done orally to simply the falsification of History.
It is of course remarkable that the Commission cannot inform who directed the divers to examine the wreck for its behalf. All allegedely damaged parts down on the wreck associated with the loss of the visor and pulling open the ramp should of course have been closely examined by the divers and filmed but nothing of this sort was done. There is no evidence of any report to the effect that the ramp had been locked before the accident or that the ramp had been pulled fully open and how the ramp could have closed itself later. You could in fact conclude that the divers didn't examine many alleged damaged parts and that the Commission just made up its own stories about damages. The censorship of the big damage hole on starboard side of the ramp is clear evidence in this respect.
A proper dive investigation including filming/photograhping should have included the following:
Video log sheets identifying the diver/camera man and with film counter/times and commentary; each sequence of any film should be identified by counter time and be described in the written commentary.
Daily dive report sheets describing personnel and equipment used.
Individual diver's report sheets describing each diver by name or pseudonym, his dive times, activities, findings, observations, etc. and what supervisor was controlling him.
Today no proper and reliable records exist at all of the diving. It is clear evidence that the diving was part of the cover-up.
It is not clear what was salvaged and what the Commission threw back into the water. According to the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet on 11 March 2001 (i.e. six years later) the dive supervisor Gustav Hanuliak stated that a large number of salvaged objects were thrown back into the water! Another Swedish daily the Dagens Nyheter reported the same day:
"The information of Gustav Hanuliak in Sundays Svenska Dagbladet was no news to Lehtola. - "I checked the matter today with my colleague Tuomo Karppinen (technical expert in the Finnish delegation) and he also remembered that objects, classified as unimportant scrap, were thrown away", says Lehtola. Lehtola remembers well that at the same time also other objects were thrown back into the sea. - "It was mainly the bolt of the Atlantic lock they talked about at that time. But it had no major importance for the examination, as the bolt was measured and the shape changes were recorded. In addition we had underwater pictures of the bolt.
It is strange that no pictures of the bottom lock bolt (or other salvaged parts) were taken on the barge.
The writer thinks that the bolt was rusty and showed signs not to have been used lately - the Atlantic lock was probably damaged before the accident 3.7. It is also interesting to note that parts attached to the visor - probably the lugs of the side locks, at least the starboard one, were salvaged and then thrown back - reason being that the parts still attached to the visor could explain what happened. The reaction of dive leader Mr Johan Franson was described in DN:
"Safety at sea director Johan Fransson, Swedish NMA (Sjöfartsverket) former chief investigator, has not the same recollections as Gustav Hanuliak. Hanuliak acted as dive advisor to Johan Fransson and has in his own words spent more than six weeks at the accident location. - "I have no information that salvaged objects, which might have brought clarification to the cause of accident, should have been thrown back into the sea. This is new information to me, and I should have been informed, if it happened", says Johan Fransson."
Actually Franson had nothing to do with the examination of the Commission - see below. It was two simultaneous but independent examinations taking place. One official reason (excuse) that parts were thrown into the sea was that there was no space in the helicopter. Nevertheless - many objects were apparently salvaged, e.g. the guardrails on the ramp 3.10 and then thrown back.
In conclusion it is remarkable to note that there exist no proper written record of the underwater examination of the 'Estonia' and parts salvaged by the Commission.
Work done for the Swedish NMA (Franson)
The Swedish NMA (Franson) was only interested if dead bodies and/or the whole wreck could be salvaged and according to contract the divers did the following for the NMA account (supplement no. 503 in (5)) as Franson had to report his findings to the government the following week:
The hull was examined from outside by an ROV without divers. A mudline survey was done by ROV. The superstructure was examined by ROV. No damages were recorded except at deck 8 port side aft. Camera time with ROV 4 hours and 48 minutes.
A proper examination of only the underwater hull - 150 meters long, 24 meters wide and 6 meters deep - about 5.000 m² - should have taken considerably more time - and divers must be used. The ROV only swept past the hull - without any reference points - from a distance: cracks, leaks and buckles in the hull could not be observed this way and their positions could not be decided. To film the port (upper) side undamaged superstructure and deckhouse for several hours was of little interest. Those who have seen the films, when they became official in 1998, have great difficulties to locate themselves. The films are incomplete and/or edited - extracts of very simple ROV logs do not fit the films, etc. It seems as if the ROV-films of the outside hull have been edited, so that it is impossible to follow the inspection and to determine locations. The mud line survey was not complete - parts of the starboard superstructure and hull side were not shown - the forward front and side areas (see below - the starboard pilot door). The forward starboard collision bulkhead - with the big hole 3.10 in the superstructure was not filmed - or the film was edited. The above circumstances support the suggestion that there is one or more unreported underwater hull damages or open/damaged shell/pilot doors somewhere.
According (28) it was neither Rockwater A/S (Dave Becket) nor Smit Tak who guided the ROV at the above examinations. According Dave Becket it was a Swedish police officer. The writer of (28) thinks that the police officer was Mr Bo Wide. He was later during the dive examination ordering divers to examine particular cabins on deck 6 - see below - to locate pieces of baggage.
The result of the mud line survey (not the geological survey) is seen below (from a Smit Tak report 8 December 1994).
Figure 1.16.2 - the 'Estonia' on the sea floor according to Smit Tak
As can be seen part of the starboard superstructure side forward and the whole starboard underwater hull side below the car deck and the whole flat bottom are above the mudline and could have been examined and filmed. However, all parts of the starboard underwater hull and superstructure side are not visible on the films and to see all parts of the flat bottom is impossible. It seems that the films have been edited! Another presentation of the forward part of the wreck on the seabed is figure 1.16.3 below (made by Rockwater 1994). We are interested in Section D, i.e. how the starboard side of the hull and the superstructure below the bridge rested on the bottom:
The Starboard Pilot Door
From the above plan, figure 1.16.3, it is clear that also the superstructure side at frame 109 or Section D (where it becomes parallel with the centreline - just aft of the bridge) is above the mudline. The superstructure starts at the car deck indicated by a line inside the ship.
Fig.1.16.4 - Pilot door
The forward starboard pilot door is situated in that area (at frame 122) and should thus have been visible on the mudline video. However, the video films of both 1 October (seabed survey) and 2 December (mud line survey) have been edited in just that area, i.e. the films have been cut and the superstructure side and the pilot door cannot be seen! This pilot door would provide easy access into the car deck space - if it were open! The German group of experts 3.13 has suggested that this door was opened just before the accident - the listing - and that crew throw suspect cargo overboard carried in two trucks that had been parked just aft of the forward ramp. These trucks had been loaded last at Tallinn. If the starboard forward pilot door were open, when the ship listed due to hull leakage, massive amounts of water would have entered there and collected on deck 2 and assisted the listing.
The Sand Heap
The Gregg Bemis dive expedition 2.24 inspected the area (Section D) in 2000 and found that the superstructure side was covered by sand (!) up to the level of the fender between hull and superstructure that didn't match the seabed mud, i.e. sand had been deposited against the wreck to change/raise the mud line and to cover the superstructure side and the pilot door. The whole area below the wreck - where you could have seen the superstructure side in 1994 - was filled with sand in 2000! It can hardly have been swept in by, say currents.
Cargo inside the superstructure may not necessarily block the pilot door opening from inside - the cargo rests on the underside of deck no. 4 >13 meters above the keel. The pilot door is only 7,6-9,6 meters above the keel.
It is a fascinating hypothesis that the 'big hole' that Mr Håkan Bergmark noticed in the side, when he dived, was the open forward pilot door, and that the Franson divers used the same door to access the car deck 2-4 December 1994! Evidently they could never inform the public that the divers accessed the car deck via an open door in the superstructure side! The public would of course have asked why a side door was open in the superstructure of the wreck in the first place. The open pilot door was probably seen already on the ROV-video taken on 1 October 1994, which was then edited not to show the opening 1.4.
It may be added that the port pilot door may have been fitted further aft of midships at frame 79 - it is indicated on the General Arrangement, and that the starboard pilot door discussed above was fitted at fr. 122 forward as shown in figure 1.16.4 above - the small rectangle just above the fender.
Inside the Wreck - search for luggage!
The Rockwater divers inspected the inside of the wreck as
follows (access to decks 8-4 of the deck house was easy
through existing doors and windows on the port (upper) side)
of the deck house - the purpose was only to locate bodies
and to study any damage to the accommodation internal
structure - wall and ceiling panels:
Deck 7 - eleven cabins were examined from outside and one cabin and the stairwell from inside - it took 1 hour 42 minutes.
Deck 6 - seven cabins forward were examined from inside - this was done as follows (28):
directed by a Swedish police officer (Bo Wide) the diver (John) broke into seven cabins in the search for one or more pieces of luggage. It took several hours and had nothing to with the official examination - (see below) -
four cabins were examined from outside, the stairwells amidships and aft and the casino were inspected from inside - it took totally 8 hours and 2 minutes - most of the time was spent looking for luggage in the seven cabins.
Deck 5 - twenty-two cabins were examined from outside, three cabins, the aft saloon and twenty meters of corridor from inside - it took 7 hours and 10 minutes.
Deck 4 - about 42 cabins were examined from outside (looking through the window), a stairwell and ten meters of corridor from inside - it took 11 hours and 11 minutes.
What were the other 25 hours and 32 minutes used for? 68 hours dive time was specified and paid for.
A lot of Dive Time not recorded
As seen in 3.10 the answer is probably that the divers inspected the no. 2 car deck (the superstructure) and observed that somebody else (the Swedish divers?) had tried to open the ramp from inside earlier under water (October 1994), which for obvious reasons could not be reported in 1994 or in supplement no. 503. You actually have to watch the available (edited) video films yourself to find out, that more than was reported in the Final report (5) was done.
Many areas were not inspected by the NMA/Rockwater to verify, if salvage of the wreck was possible:
Deck 0 - totally ten watertight compartments were not visited (even if it is probable that one diver spent about one hour in the pool compartment). The sewage tanks and stabilizers rooms were not inspected.
Deck 1 - four storerooms aft, the engine room and the ECR were not examined.
Decks 2/3 (the garage/car deck) superstructure - stern ramp, the whole car deck, the cargo and the bow ramp were not examined from inside.
None of the 22 watertight doors in 12 watertight bulkheads on decks 0 and 1 were examined. One or two doors on deck 1 were reported to have been seen in the closed position, but there is no evidence. According to the contract the whole inside of the 'Estonia' was going to be examined, but it was not done.
The starboard collision bulkhead at the ramp was not examined - there is a big damage there 3.10, which probably is the result of an explosion. Neither the Finns in October, nor the Swedes (incl. Rockwater) in December 1994 or in the summer 1996 have ever filmed the starboard collision bulkhead with the big hole. This is very strange.
The Video Films disappear
Even if the Rockwater A/S divers made the video films, they never got access to them. According to (28) they only recorded one original film on the dive barge - no copy was made. When it was completed, it was put in a special box. Only the Swedish members of the Commission had access to this box. When all video films had been made, a helicopter was ordered and transported the films to Sweden (to the NMA or the police is not known). 21 cassettes were recorded. Where the originals are is unknown. Films accessible to the public are edited copies only. The starboard collision bulkhead and many other parts of the outside are not shown. When Rockwater wrote its dive report, it had apparently not access to the films. If a written dive log was kept is not known - only extracts exist of a very rough log without any descriptions of what damages was seen, etc. Rockwater has later stated that they had copies of the un-edited films and that they have been burnt later, reason being that you could see dead bodies on some films. Why films of the outside wreck, where there were no bodies, have been edited is unclear. Probably to hide damages that were not reported - but who knows?
Various persons have later, when the films became publicly available in 1998, studied these. It is obvious that the films have been edited from the clock/counter shown on the frames. The Swedish Board of Psychological Defence, SPF, has at a meeting on 23 August 2000 with the 'Contact Group to follow the future protection of the wreck of the M/S Estonia', i.e. six years after the accident, decided to find the answer to the question why certain times on some video films of the wreck are not in chronologic order. The SPF has later informed:
"The explanation to the time shifts is so called operative breaks. The filming was not continuous. There were pauses and movements relative to the wreck. During these breaks, when no filming took place, the camera clock continued to run.
The Swedish Board of Accident Investigations requested Editing of the Films
There were 99 hours of diving but only 43 hours of films. One explanation is that the divers were moving around and shut off the camera, another reason is that remains of victims were seen. The inside of the deck house and superstructure was filmed during 32 hours and the inside of deck 1 of the hull 11 hours. None of these films can clarify the cause of the accident. But then there are the films of the outside hull and a short sequence inside the superstructure taken by ROVs with or without divers. On the outside and inside the superstructure there were no victims. The SPF explanations why the ROV films of the outside and inside the superstructure were edited are not convincing.
Salvage of Luggage
First in February 1999 the Swedish daily FinansTidningen (990203) reported that Franson made a third job inside the wreck, which was filmed:
Late night 3 December 1994 Franson or the Swedish policeman Bo Wide ordered a diver (John) to go through the window of cabin 6129 on deck 6 and proceed into the corridor. For several hours the diver, following Swedish police instructions (Bo Wide), broke into cabins nos. 6118, 6124, 6130, 6132, 6134 and 6230, which were all thoroughly examined to locate one or more pieces of luggage or suitcases.
Mr Franson and his boss, the Swedish government, have never officially reported about this job and why it was done. Evidently no video log recording the diver job, the diver's findings and his supervisors exists. The letters of Fransons to the writer of 24 January and 6 February 1997 above about the diving were thus misleading.
The report in the FinansTidningen was not reprinted in other Swedish dailies, but it is clear that diver John were searching for suitcases for several hours. The Rockwater report - supplement 503 - describes the job as a 'condition survey'.
Inside Inspection of the Swimming Pool Area on Deck 0
Another diver went probably down into the swimming pool compartment on deck 0 - but no films exist officially. The evidence should be a one hour gap in the dive log, when the diver was supposed to be on deck 1. Actually it has been reported that a film exists, where one diver (the one inspecting deck 1) swims into the swimming pool room area on deck 0 via the spiral staircase from deck 1 and then swims towards the conference room and sewage tank room aft in the centreline of the ship. The deck 0 on top of the double bottom is then a sloping wall on the divers right side - all the lose furniture has fallen down into the starboard bilge 10 meters below the diver. The deck 0 is inclined 120 degrees towards the diver. When the diver arrives to the watertight door leading into the adjacent compartment he stops and remarks that he has found sand (!). End of film. How could sand be noticed in this location? It is about 14 meters above the sea floor and inside the ship. One possibility is that the sand was inside the double bottom tanks and had collected and got stuck on top of the centreline girder inside the double bottom, when the ship listed 120 degrees. If the inner bottom deck 0 plates were fractured at the centreline, sand could very well flow out there, when disturbed by the diver. The inspection of deck 0 is a mystery and what was found.
The Commission and the Final report (5) state that the deck 0 compartments were not inspected at all, while a film exists of a diver on deck 0. The diver may very well have found internal damages proving the leakage of the inner bottom (and the hull) and the Commission censored the findings.
Most Parts of the Wreck were not examined
The following is a summary - not complete - of items not examined during the divings.48
(i) Three bodies on the bridge were not identified.
A sloppy Examination
The writer's opinion is that the dive examination was extremely sloppy and unprofessional. The examination was badly planned and specified. It was a waste of taxpayers' money. Neither Franson nor the Commission was interested in a proper examination. The examination was done for show only - and to permit Swedish police to salvage luggage. Therefore the official report of the diving is so bad. Nobody could even make an effort to falsify a professionally looking examination report.
It is quite disappointing that the only result of 99 hours of diving at a cost of SEK 7.5 millions is some films and a badly written report not stating what was done at various locations at various times. It is not possible for an outside observer to get a complete picture what was done - and why - and what the analysis was.
The Smit Tak Surveyors - inside the Car Deck
The Final report (5) does not report the work of salvage company Smit Tak. Rockwater states in its report (see above) that Smit Tak only did the geological survey around the wreck (1 mile radius), but in the Smit Tak report no. 94/060 dated 8 December by Jan ter Haar, Salvage master, it is on the contrary reported that another company - a third party - did that survey. Apart from ter Haar, three other Dutchmen were aboard the dive vessel and carried out underwater inspections of the 'Estonia'; Chris Bos, diving foreman (sic), and Henk Hocksma and Eric de Graaf. What were these four men doing? Apparently they examined, if the wreck could be salvaged! How did they do it? Let's quote from their report (no. 94/060 dated 8 December 1994 kindly given to the writer):
"... a special survey by ROVs is made on request of the salvers' team in order to conclude the possibility of salvage of the vessel 'Estonia'. The survey on the bottom side of the ship and the internal inspection of the car deck (sic) are conducted simultaneously with the internal inspection of the wreck by the Rockwater divers ... During the survey two types of ROVs were used, i.e. one ROV of the type Sprinter from SARB and one ROV of the type UFO from Rockwater. ... The survey of ... the bow ramp and internally inside the car deck was carried out by the Sprinter ROV. ... An ROV survey was conducted in the car deck covering until a distance of 20 meters inside the wreck. It was observed that cargo had fallen to the lower side ... Silt has been observed in the car deck."
Smit Tak - salvage master Jan ter Heer - does not inform how the Sprinter ROV managed to get into the car deck, as the opening at the ramp was too small for entry and there are no other openings - except the starboard forward pilot door! And it is clear that the car deck was visited by the Sprinter ROV, and, as you do not send in an ROV unattended, you can be sure that it was accompanied by divers.
But officially, i.e. according to the Final report (5) the car no. 2 deck and deck 0 were not inspected at all. And how could silt have entered the car deck of the superstructure? The bow ramp was only partly open and well above the bottom 3.10! Some observers suggest that (i) the ROV (and the divers) entered through an opening in the starboard (lower) superstructure side! And that the silt entered through the same opening. That opening should have been cut in the superstructure under water - in October 1994! - to enable access to the car deck in the attempt to open the ramp from inside! After the dive inspection in December 1994 the opening was closed again and covered by sand and the Commission decided to edit the dive films to hide that the car deck had been filmed. This writer believes access was easier - the divers used the starboard open pilot door at fr. 122!
Analysis of Consequences - pure Disinformation
After the sloppy dive examination, the Swedish NMA produced another report - an Analysis of Consequences - on 12 December 1994. It was written by Franson alone - on the dive barge - and was not discussed with anybody.
Franson said that it was possible to salvage the 'Estonia'. There were no technical difficulties, even it a similar operation had never been done before (sic). The cost - SEK 1 500 millions. Where this cost came from is unknown - no offers had been requested. Many salvage companies were ready to raise the wreck immediately, but none got a chance.49 In 2001 offers to salvage the two halves of the oil tanker 'Erika' were announced - cost French Francs 40-50 millions. The 'Erika' was bigger than the 'Estonia' and the two halves are lying at bigger depth - 120 meters - 10 kilometres apart and the offers to raise them were 15-20 times cheaper than the cost announced by Franson to salvage the 'Estonia'.
The difficulties were the psychological and physical risks of the personnel handling the dead bodies (no psychological risks had been reported by the divers that filmed the inside of the wreck and bodies a week earlier), Franson wrote. Suddenly Franson was an expert of psychology. That >10 000 bodies have been recovered after, e.g. earthquakes Franson had never heard of.
Also, if the 'Estonia' were going to be salvaged, you had to consider that many bodies inside the wreck were going to be fragmentised - damaged beyond recognition - according to Franson. Why the bodies were going to be 'fragmentised' is not clear. If the wreck was lifted straight up by help of pontoons and a wire cradle under the hull, inside wall and ceiling panels would not be disturbed and the bodies would remain in place - undamaged. The Smit Tak report, quoted above, states exactly the same - it was of course very easy to salvage the wreck, move it to a sheltered location with little depth, remove all bodies and later pump the wreck dry and tow it into port, etc. Smit Tak is one of the most experienced salvage companies in the world.
But at various presentations to the Swedish government and other agencies laymen Franson stated the opposite and recommended that salvage should not be done, and the Swedish government decided just that on 15 December 1994. The Smit Tak staff must have been quite surprised at these developments - on the 8 December 1994 they had stated that it was easy to salvage the ship and the victims, the following week Franson stated exactly the opposite and then came the Swedish government decision to this effect. The Smit Tak staff got the message - and decided to shut up for good.
The Commission 1997 in the Final Report (5) chapter 8.4 summarised all above as follows:
"The Swedish government ordered a diving survey of the wreck to establish the condition of the interior of the vessel and the feasibility of lifting the entire wreck or recovering individual victims."
That was all. No mention of any search for luggage, etc. but maybe the Commission did not know that. And
"... - for the Commission - a survey of the navigation bridge and the vessel's bow area (was commissioned) ... The diving survey was supplemented by ROV inspection of certain areas."
That was all. The Commission did not look for any hull damages that could have caused the sinking. And in spite of surveying the bow area they did not see or report the big hole in the front bulkhead 3.10. And even if they inspected the inside of the car deck, they stated that they did not do that because they could not get inside - the easiest solution to hide all damages seen on the car deck, probably caused in an earlier attempt to open the ramp from inside. There is no mentioning of any pilot door in the superstructure!
The incomplete dive examination is a good reason to have the investigation re-opened. Until then many private divers will visit the wreck to check for themselves. And by reading this book they now know where to look for the unreported damages!50
A factual analysis of the Franson expedition is that it was incomplete, sloppy, unprofessional and misleading. All reports of Franson are full of numerous lies. Franson was a few months later appointed director for safety at sea (sic) at the Swedish NMA by the government. Franson evidently had no qualifications for that job - he had never been to sea and knew nothing about safety at sea. Since 1995 Franson has continued to harass real safety at sea experts from his high position - and all his staff at the NMA supports him.
The Continuation of the sad Story
In spite of the fact that officially the inside of the ramp was never examined, the Commission decided to change a little in its previously announced sequence of events. The Commission had of course then calculated that the 'Estonia' could never have suddenly listed suddenly, unless the ramp had been wide open - and now was the time to announce that - the divers allegedly had noted that the ramp had been locked before the accident, that the ramp locks had been ripped open, and - of course - that the ramp had closed itself later to the position as found. There are no written reports by the diving company Halliburton or by Smit Tak or anybody in the SHK archive to this effect - the Commission and Franson just invented all of it in December 1994 - to suit the false cause of events!
All results of the dive expedition were manipulations.
47 In order to find out what exactly happened during the dive expedition the writer wrote to Johan Franson in January 1997, before the Final Report (5) was published. And Johan Franson replied - the Commission and Sten Anderson had refused to reply with reference to everything being confidential.
48 The information is collected based on the Final Report (5) and media reports, etc.
49 By MATTI HUUHTANEN Associated Press Writer HELSINKI, Finland (AP) -- Any attempts to re-float the sunken ferry 'Estonia' or retrieve bodies from the disaster site will take place next spring at the earliest, a maritime official said Wednesday (5 October). A week after the tragedy, attention focused on the ship, which sank in a violent storm and killed more than 900 people. Many of the bodies are believed still in the hull. "A decision on whether to raise the 'Estonia' can be made at the earliest in the spring," said Johan Franson, the chief legal officer for Sweden's maritime department. "The weather isn't right to do any big work at sea at this time of year." Franson, a top-ranking member of the 'Estonia' probe, will present his findings to the Swedish government next week. Sweden, which had the largest number of victims on board, is taking the lead role in deciding what to do about the sunken ferry. Ships with sonar equipment were continuing the search for the bow door. Investigators say the ferry sank because the bow door was ripped off, letting water in and destabilizing the vessel. The investigators have suggested a cruising speed that was excessive for the weather conditions may have contributed to the stress on the door. Jan-Tore Thörnros, captain of the ferry 'Mariella', said he was moving at 10 to 12 knots in the rough sea when 'Estonia' overtook his ship at an estimated 15 knots, shortly before the disaster. "We found we could not go faster," Thörnros said. Families of the victims are pressuring the governments of Finland, Estonia and Sweden to retrieve the bodies. Until that happens, the families will be left without official word of the fate of their loved ones and in some cases life insurance payments may be delayed. Salvage companies from Scotland, Norway and other countries have swamped investigators with offers to raise the 'Estonia' or retrieve bodies from the hull. Storms and cold winter weather have already hit the Baltic, making any salvage operation extremely difficult. Investigators have said that with the ferry 180 to 280 feet below the surface, any attempt to haul it up or have divers go inside will be difficult, and may cost at least $100 million. The Estonia sank off southwestern Finland on Sept. 28, while travelling from the Estonian capital of Tallinn to Stockholm, Sweden. Only 137 people survived, most of them strong young men. "I think we should do everything in our power to refloat the ferry," outgoing Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt said Tuesday (4 October) in Stockholm. A Norwegian salvage vessel was in the vicinity of the accident, 70 miles south of Turku, Finnish radio reported.
50 Areas of interest are: (a) the forecastle deck openings and the deck beam fr. 159 port and starboard. Is the beam actually cut - and how?, (b) the starboard shell plating just above the bilge and the flat bottom i.w.o. the conference and sauna/pool compartments on deck no. 0 and the heeling tank. Is the plate fractured? (c) all areas in the fore end structure, where the German group of experts suggest you can see damages due to explosive devices, (d) inside of the ramp (it is possible to swim in) - the ramp locks, (e) the area behind the famous 'sand heap' covering the superstructure side, etc.