Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.
"I do not believe any longer in the Commission. - it has not acted correctly ... I do not think that the quality is good of the Final report ... there were actually many defects on board. There are items that should have been mentioned in the Final report, which are not there ... It should have been more detailed and have better analysis".
Commission expert Bengt Schager in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet 970922
1.20 Changes in the secret Commission. Only 61.5% of all Ships assisted
Enn Neidre was dismissed as a member of the Commission in April 1996 (but continued as an expert) and was replaced by Mr Priit Männik, a high-ranking security police chief in Estonia.
The Secret Police enters the Commission - and leaves
Männik had supervised the questioning of the Estonian crew and survivors in 1994, but had evidently no experience of technical marine accident investigations. It seems that the job of Männik was to ensure that the final testimonies of the crew members tallied with what the Commission agreed to publish in the Final report. The crew members were apparently harassed by the Estonian secret police 1996/7 to toe the line. Männik was officially forced to resign in the autumn 1997 for alleged irregularities, probably in his job as police and not associated with the investigation, but it may also have been a charade. It would not look nice to have the head of the secret police signing an investigation report of a marine accident. Männik was therefore replaced by one of the Estonian experts in the Commission - professor Jan Metsaveer, who was a strength of materials expert and not an accident investigator (a useful idiot). Evidently it looked nicer to have an engineer signing the Final report.
The Commission Chairman resigns
Andi Meister, chairman of the Commission resigned in July 1996 and was replaced by professor Heino Levald, naval architect and expert in the Commission. It is interesting to not that Meister resigned a few months after the secret police chief Männik entered the Commission but Meister stated that the Swedes had manipulated the investigation work, particularly the video films of the dive examination. In retrospect (1999-2001) you can conclude that Meister was right 3.10. The divers were on the car deck and filmed, but the Swedish dive expedition leaders stated the opposite, etc. Meister has since written a book about his observations during the investigation, but the writer has not managed to obtain a copy of it. The Commission then did not have a chairman. During the autumn 1996 captain Uno Laur was appointed chairman by the Estonian president Lennart Meri.
Two Investigators die
The Finnish expert Simo Aarnio died suddenly in January 1996 and was replaced by another Finn. Börje Stenström died in February 1997 and was replaced by one of the Swedish experts of the Commission - captain Olle Noord. Olof Forssberg was dismissed as director general of the SHK by the Swedish government in May 1997 and had to leave the Commission, but got a new job at the Ministry of Transport and was later appointed judge at the Svea Hovrätt appeal court in February 1998. Olof Forssberg was replaced by Ann-Louise Eksborg*63 - a person without any knowledge of marine accident investigations 4.5. The last meeting of the Commission was in March 1997, when the Final report (5) was allegedly agreed (no manuscript exists!), so the only job of Ann-Louise Eksborg was to sign it (even if it didn't exist). The Swedish psychologist Bengt Schager resigned as expert in September 1997.64
It was thus quite chaotic in the Commission during the investigation (the falsification of History), but the staff changes had a certain logic. The persons who at the early stage started the falsification of History (Stenström, Forssberg, Neidre, Meister, etc) disappeared from the investigation and forced new, inexperienced persons to take over the rubbish. The latter probably did not believe that all essential information was consciously falsified from the beginning but tried to make the best out of all contradictory information. It is interesting to note that the three Finnish investigators remained in the Commission until the end. About the latest statements of Lehtola and Karppinen after the Final report was published you can read in Part 4.
Admiral Heimo Iivonen
The work of admiral Heimo Iivonen in the Commission is quite unclear. He participated in the manipulated 'finding' of the visor - see 1.4 - and as summarized below.
Iivonen is only mentioned twice in the twenty records of the meetings of the Commission. The first time is in January 1996. According the protocol, act A93a*, of the meeting 25/26 January 1995 admiral Iivonen then stated in paragraph 6 that
"The Mayday ... was received by ... six ... vessels ... and five land-based stations".
According the Final report (5) it was however eight ships that heard the Mayday, but only five that went to assist, and one ship that did not hear the Mayday but went to assist at the request of another ship - three of these ships saved 33 persons from the water. Two other ships went to assist later. Two unknown ships were in the vicinity - plotted by Utö radar station - but did not assist in the rescue operation. One ship - the 'Tursas' - arrived much later and saved one person. All above is from the Final report (5). A position of the accident is alleged to have been stated in the 'Mayday'-message. No ship apparently headed towards that position - see plots below.
Table 1.20.1 summarizes which eight ships heard the Mayday. Of these eight ships three never went to assist - the 'Anette', 'Antares' and 'Garden'. It is quite remarkable and the Commission has no comments.
Table 1.20.1 - Ships that assisted or could have assisted the 'Estonia' 1994
Only two ships immediately changed course at the end of the Mayday to assist the 'Estonia' - the 'Finnjet' and the 'Mariella'. The 'Silja Europa' waited 10 minutes, the 'Silja Symphony' and the 'Isabella' 20 minutes, even if the two latter were moving towards the position of the accident. The 'Silja Symphony' and the 'Isabella' increased the speed to 21 knots, in spite of the alleged severe weather, to reach the 'Estonia'. The 'Silja Europe' took it very easy - <10 knots to reach the sinking 'Estonia'
Incorrect Position of the 'Estonia' in the Final Report
The arrival times of the various ships differ in table 7.6 and figure 17.1 in (5). Figure 17.1 in (5) is shown below.
Note that the position 01.40 hrs of the 'Estonia' - a black dot - is 1,5 nautical miles or 2 800 meters South of the 'as found' wreck position marked with a cross.
If a radar echo disappeared at the black dot at 01.50 hrs, it was not the 'Estonia' that probably sank already at 01.36 hrs. The 'Mariella' had both visual and radar contact with the 'Estonia' at 01.30 hrs, when the 'Estonia' was seen immobile - probably just in the vicinity of the wreck position - the cross. On what information figure 17.1 in (5) is actually based remains a mystery - why does the Commission indicate an incorrect position of the 'Estonia'? Is figure 17.1 based on the famous Utö plot - the plot that disappeared 1.13?
Figure 1.20.1 - Figure 17.1 in (5)
21 Knots to reach the 'Estonia'
That the 'Mariella' arrived first should be clear - about 02.00 hrs. If the 'Silja Europa' arrived at 02.30 hrs is not clear - according figure 17.1 in (5) she had another 5 miles to the accident position and arrived at 03.00 hrs at very slow speed. Similar conclusions can be drawn for the 'Silja Symphony' - arrival at 02.40 hrs is unclear - according figure 17.1 she had another 4 miles to go to arrive at about 03.02 hrs. The 'Silja Symphony' was 25 miles from the accident at 01.23 hrs. 'Silja Symphony' immediately increased the speed to 21 (sic) knots and arrived at 02.40 hrs. She had no problems to do 21 knots in the alleged severe weather - alleged ten meters waves, etc., where other ships state they had to slow down to 11 knots. Very strange. Maybe the waves were not ten meters?
The 'Isabella' arrived at about the same time 02.52/9 hrs and must have made the same speed as the 'Silja Symphony'. You should conclude that the 'Mariella' arrived first at 02.15 hrs and the three others about 45 minutes later at about 03.00 hrs. The 'Finnjet' and the 'Finnmerchant' arrived another 30 minutes later, i.e. six ships were at the accident position at 03.30 hrs, when the persons from the 'Estonia' had been two hours in the water at 12-13° C.66
Another - different - plot is made by the German group of experts 3.13 and is from Chapter 24 of its final report. It seems in this plot that the 'Silja Symphony' arrived 45 minutes (!) before the 'Silja Europe' and the 'Isabella'. And no ship headed for the alleged wreck position. Note the positions of 'Mariella' and 'Isabella' - the only ferries that managed to pick up survivors.
None of the six Ships launched any Lifeboats to rescue Persons in the Water
They all blamed the bad weather - compare 1.33 and 3.21. But it could simply have been due to the suggestion that the assisting ferries were as unseaworthy as the 'Estonia'. The lifeboats did not work and/or the relevant crew was not onboard or had not been trained, so they could not launch any boats and assist.
It is a very sad fact that the Masters of the assisting ferries have given contradictory statements to the Commission. The 'Mariella' had to slow down because of the weather. The 'Silja Symphony' made 21 knots - weather was no problem. The famous Utö plot had to disappear because it showed that some Masters did not tell the Truth. Why? Because their ships were as unseaworthy as the 'Estonia'? The Masters and their shipping companies keep very quiet about the 'Estonia' and have never criticised the Final report (5). Maybe the carry a collective guilt not being able to assist correctly and save lives due to their own faults? It assisted the cover-up.
According to figure 17.1 in the Final report (5) there were two unknown ships 7-8 miles East of the wreck position at about 03.00 hrs (thus not the 'Finnjet', the 'Finnmerchant', the 'Finnhansa' or the 'Ministar' - see below) and these two ships could have assisted before 04.00 hrs. Utö radar station plotted these ships (on the plot that later disappeared). It means of course that the plot existed or must have been modified later. Somebody has suggested that the two ships appearing and disappearing were Swedish submarines of the Västergötland class that were exercising in the area.
According table 7.5 in (5) eight ships were on location to assist at 04.50 hrs - the six above mentioned + the 'Finnhansa' and the 'Ministar'. The 'Ministar' was as far away as the 'Anette' from the wreck position (but outside figure 7.1 in (5)) at 01.20 hrs and the 'Finnhansa' was further away. It shows that the 'Anette', the 'Antares' and the 'Garden' could have been on location at that time - 04.40-05.00 hrs. The 'Tursas' arrived at 05.00 hrs according to (5) and saved one person.
28 Knots to reach the 'Estonia'
The 'Tursas' was according to figure 17.1 above at 04.22 hrs about 15 miles from the accident position making 9.5 knots. In order to arrive at 05.00 hrs she must have made > 28 knots, which she evidently did not do. How the 'Tursas' reached the accident position should be investigated! She probably arrived much later - but according the Final report she arrived at 05.00 hrs and must have done 28 knots - and saved one person.
The 'Anette' was about 35 miles from the 'Estonia' at 01.20 hrs and could also have been on location at about 05.00 hrs. The Master reported himself to the Finnish administration on 17 October 1994 for not having followed the procedures of the law of the sea. The 'Anette' heard the Mayday on channel 16 starting at 01.20 hrs (sic). Later the 'Anette' was in contact with the 'Silja Europa' at 01.31 hrs, which is not shown in table 7.5 of (5), and was told to 'stand-by' on channel 16. Then there was silence on channel 16 the whole night, in spite of table 7.5 of (5) reporting a lot of conversation on that channel. The 'Anette' never heard a proper Mayday from the 'Estonia' which should have been sent on the emergency frequency 2 182 kHz starting with an alarm signal.
All ships receiving any Mayday shall then send a so-called Mayday relay, which neither the 'Anette' nor any other ship did. According page 100 in the Final report (5) - table 7.5 - the MRCC at Turku/Åbo asked at 01.45 hrs the Helsinki/Helsingfors Radio to send a Mayday relay on channel 16. The procedure was quite strange.
The Helsinki/Helsingfors Radio instead sent a Pan-Pan message, but it was never heard, e.g. by the 'Anette'. The Master of the 'Anette' wondered in his report, if other ships had made the same fault as he. The Finnish administration sent the report to the Finnish Teleförvaltningscentralen (Finnish Radio telephone board), which replied that it should consider the matter, when the Final report (5) had been published. When (5) was published the whole matter had been forgotten. The 'Anette' had a low freeboard and might have picked up survivors in the water after 2 or 3 hours. It is worth noting that the 'Anette' plotted the 'Estonia' at 01.20 hrs 0,5 miles East of the position of the wreck! The 'Estonia' could very well have been there - and sunk 15 minutes later 900 meters Westward. But the 'Anette' continued her voyage to Sweden, totally unaware of the drama 30 miles East.
The 'Antares' and the 'Garden' were both only 25 miles from the 'Estonia' and could have arrived at 04.00 hrs.
Many Ships did not assist
According (5) (page 103) there was a great number of other ships in the vicinity, which did not assist: 12 government ships were at Pärnäinen about 60 miles away - none went to assist. Several ships were at Hangö, i.a. the rescue boat 'Russarö' - specially adapted to pick up survivors in the water in severe weather, but she remained in port. One minesweeper left Hangö and arrived at 07.00 hrs. Survivors were rescued until 08.00 hrs in the morning.
The conclusion is that the Final Report (5) does not correctly describe what ships could have assisted the persons on the 'Estonia'. Three named ships never understood what was going on. At least 13 (or maybe 20 ships) could have assisted but only eight - 61.5% (or 40%) - went to assist (the 'Tursas' not included).
The Final report (5) suggests that the reason, why none of the assisting ferries launched any life saving equipment, was the severe weather. There were no big waves. Just look at the films by M/V Finnmerchant Part 1 of the rescue efforts. M/V Finnmerchant arrived at 03.25 hrs at the site of accident on 28 September 1994 and when dawn arrived around 05.00 hrs they filmed rafts with survivors and helicopters in full rescue action. As you can see, the weather was not too bad. No 10 metres waves as Bildt and JAIC reported. Films part 2 and part3 here! Sadly, no attending vessel launched a lifeboat to assist in the rescue. It would have been possible. So we know today that the weather was not as bad as later alleged 1.21 footnote 70. And we know that the 'Silja Symphony' made 21 knots to reach the accident position, i.e. the weather did not prevent her. The reason why no lifeboats were launched may have been that they did not work or the crew was not available. The Commission may have used this situation to convince the Masters and the shipping companies no to criticise the Final report (5).
Confusion about rescued People
The second time admiral Iivonen are mentioned in the records were at the meeting 17/18 December 1996 (act A208*) when he stated that
"Still some confusion about the number of people rescued"
- two years and two months after the accident. Iivonen was responsible for the shore based lifesaving operations at sea! One reason for this confusion is maybe that rescued persons disappeared afterwards.
The Finnish sea rescue administration thus could only alert a little less than half of the ships in the vicinity of the 'Estonia', which could have been on the spot within 3-4 hours, and did not know several years later how many had been rescued 1.46.
One consequence of an accident - that hundreds of persons had to jump into the sea - shall evidently not be examined by the person, who is responsible to save the persons. Admiral Iivonen had an interest to mislead the Commission.
63 Eksborg is a member of the MAIIF and should have followed the UN resolutions about marine casualty investigations 4.5.
64 Schager resigned in protest of the Commission, where he had worked for three years, and of the Final report. He had then been paid in excess of SEK 3 000 000:- in 'consultancy' fees! Do not say accident investigation is badly paid. In the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet 970922 Schager said
"I do not believe any longer in the Commission - it has not acted correctly ... I do not think that the quality is good of the Final report ... there were actually many defects on board. There are items that should have been mentioned in the Final report, which are not there ... It should have been more detailed and have better analysis"., etc. etc.
Bengt Schager thinks that the Commission did not permit that certain aspects were properly investigated. In the Swedish local daily Hallands Nyheter 990217 Schager said the following about the Estonians in the Commission:
"Their competence was not enough to participate in such an investigation. They had never done it before ".
About the crew the psychologist Schager said:
"We know that several crewmembers lied ".
The last statement is not included in the Final report (5). Note that it was Schager who wrote the summaries of testimonies 2.1 - that apparently includes false statements of the crew.
65 18 persons from the sea were saved by the 'Mariella' according to (20) 1.41.
66 The author has been told that another (Norwegian) ship, the 'Henriette', also heard the Mayday but did not assist. Letter to the owner has not been replied to.