Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.
2.11 The Positions of the Visor and the 'Mayday' and the Wreck
With regard to the position of the visor relative to the positions of the 'Mayday' and the wreck - see figure in 2.26 - the Commission has not satisfactory explained how the 'Estonia' moved between these positions from 01.15 to 01.52 hrs 1.9. The plot of the sequence of events - figure 13.2 in the Final report is false - it shows the movements of a completely undamaged ship.
The Mayday position is strange (a mile South of the visor position). The ship could never have been there at 01.24 hrs and then drift to the wreck position.
The visor position is probably, 99%, false.
There is no evidence that the visor was actually found or salvaged at a position 1 570 meters West of the wreck. Why the Commission on 18 October 1994 had announced a false visor position is not known. It may have been to support some imaginary course of events at the time, which later was too easy to prove wrong.
Was it because the visor was in fact found attached to the ship at the bottom of the sea?
However, the Commission announced a visor position 'one mile West of the wreck' and it is confirmed in the Final Report (5). At that position (and time) the ramp had also been pulled fully open according to the Commission. The speed was >14 knots. The time was 01.15 hrs. Water started to enter the superstructure. There was a list. And the passengers were alerted - not by the crew - but by the list. Testimonies from the passengers should of course confirm all this. But the Commission decided not to interview any surviving passenger. So below follows some testimonies from passengers.
2.12 Testimonies of Survivors show that the Commission is wrong!
There were officially 137 survivors from the 'Estonia'. There were 137 survivors. As far as I can ascertain, this is a breakdown of nationalities: were 65 Estonians, 49 Swedish, 6 Latvians, 3 Norwegians, 3 Finnish, 3 Germans, 2 Polish, 2 Russians, 1 Dane, 1 Briton, 1 Dutch and 1 Ukrainian.
134 immediately tried to escape to open decks when the ship started to roll and got a stable list about 12-15° to starboard. They had 5-10 minutes time to escape before the list got worse. Only three survivors didn't escape at first. They were 3rd Engineer Treu, assistant pipe/pumping engineer Sillaste and motorman Kadak. Instead the three collected in the Engine Control Room, ECR, on deck 1 and heroically tried to save the vessel, 1.48, before they escaped to deck 8. The 134 other survivors generally testified that that there was a big impact or bang or two impacts and then calm. The time is before 01.00 hrs. A few got worried and escaped to open deck then. Soon after some survivors from deck 1 saw water on that deck that came from below. Then suddenly the ship started to roll >30° port and starboard and the 134 survivors got very worried. They had to escape where ever they were. The ship got 12-15° stable list to starboard and the 134 got out. Probably another 100+ persons also got out and drowned. Only three persons didn't escape at first and went to the ECR. They are the star witnesses of the Commission! They have provided many different stories about the accident to suit what the Commission concluded.
The Commission states in the Final Report (5) that water first flooded the car deck in the superstructure and that this water flowed down to deck 1 and alerted passengers - before the heeling developed. The water must then have flowed through locked and closed fire doors with 25 cms high sills. These doors are at the centreline on car deck 2. These doors are not watertight, but should prevent smoke to enter the staircase in event of fire in the garage. These doors are always locked from the stairwell to prevent passengers to enter the car deck at sea. Very little or no water can pass a gastight fire door.
The water on the open car deck in the superstructure causes the ship to trim and list and the water ends up at the lowest point - one of the four corners of the car deck. It means that the fire doors in the centreline are always in a dry position relative the water on the car deck (assuming a calm, steady position). The ship is evidently moving - mainly pitching and rolling - and the water moves - sloshes - around from one corner to another. It makes a lot of noise. But still no water is flowing down to deck no. 1 through the fire doors.
The Commission has informally suggested that the ship's stabilizers 2.23 managed to keep the ship upright, i.e. the heeling moment of the water on the car deck in the superstructure >2 meters above waterline was compensated by the righting moment of the stabilizers.
However, any water on the car deck in the superstructure trims the ship either on the bow or on the stern. There are no transverse divisions in the superstructure to prevent the water from flowing from forward to aft. As the ship was pitching it is possible that water on the car deck moved forward/aft on the deck below the cars and trucks. Such water motion would produce a lot of noise. The trucks/cars undersides and tyres would act as wave breakers. Let's thus assume that the stabilizers kept the ship upright in spite of the water on the car deck. And let's assume that the water inflow was only 400 tons/minute the first minute as per expert Huss of the Commission 1.9. Then 400 tons of water was going to slosh forward and aft on the car deck under the cars and trucks - it is about 12 cms of water - well below any sills of the fire doors in the centreline, and it is difficult to visualize how 12 cms of water could produce waves on the car deck. You would expect all the 400 tons to flow aft and trim the ship on the stern and to collect against the inside of the aft ramp with a big noise. 400 tons of water sloshing around on the car deck would have caused a very big noise. 400 tons is a very big, live weight.
Actually, as the ship pitched up/down about 8-10 times a minute while scooping up water according to Huss, you would expect about 40 tons to be scooped up every pitching and that then this water would flow aft. These 400 tons must have made a lot of noise.
As soon as the ship stops in the water, the water on the car deck would flow out the same way it got in. The water was 2.5 meter above waterline.
In the book 'Sänktes Estonia?' (27) by Henning Witte the story of Carl Övberg is presented. Övberg awoke in his cabin marked yellow on plan below on deck 1 below the car deck.
The cabin is about 30 meters forward of the ECR, where 3/E Treu was keeping watch, and just above the space, where systems engineer Sillaste was repairing a vacuum pump (see 1.3):
"Just before 01.00 hrs Övberg heard a strong bang or crash and the whole ship vibrated. It was a strong metallic sound. The bang was so severe that Övberg compared it to a severe grounding. He became more alert as he did not recognize the sound and was not able to locate it. About one half to two minutes later he heard another bang, which was even harder, and the ship pitched, up so that Övberg was thrown back against the cabin wall. Now he understood that something serious had happened. He dressed quickly (trousers, shirt and jacket) and left the cabin to run to the staircase (following the green path in plan above) Just when he came out in the corridor, he felt the ship pitching on the stern and immediately afterwards rolling to a starboard list.
The sudden impact sounds like a collision! Another survivor (MÖ) is quite sure that the list occurred at 01.02 hrs, when his alarm clock fell to the floor due the list and stopped (the batteries fell out). MÖ had then great difficulties first to open the cabin door blocked by luggage, then to get from the corridor to the stairs over the large floor area in the staircase enclosure.
Many survivors came from the six watertight compartments with cabins on deck 1 and some have said that there was water on the floor before 01.00 hrs but after the bangs. It seems as if water were observed in the foremost compartment and in another compartment 50 meters aft at about the same time. The watertight doors on deck 1 in the hull were open, so that the passengers could visit the public toilets in the second and fifth watertight compartment.
Two passengers on deck 1 left their cabins early, as they suspected a serious fault and got to deck 5 and complained about the water on deck 1 - not water that flowed down from the car deck inside the stair case to deck 1. One passenger from deck 1 went all the way to open deck 7, before the list occurred. An un-proportional large number of survivors had cabins on deck no 1 (33% - 46 of 137) even if half of them were not in the cabin on deck 1, when the list occurred.
Two strong Bangs
Another testimony has been received via email from AE; see also end of 2.1:-
"I heard around 1 o'clock two strong bangs and I almost fell out of the bed in my cabin on deck 4 port side almost forward. I felt that something was wrong, so I dressed to find somebody who could tell me what had happened. I thought that cars were lose in the garage and rolled on the deck and hit the ship. I looked out in the corridor where everything was calm. Nobody could be seen. I went into the transverse corridor to find the door to the car deck but could not find it. Instead I took the centre corridor aft towards the entrance hall. Before I got there I felt a vibration and the 'Estonia' heeled and got a few degrees list. I stopped a moment and continued toward the entrance hall. I started to walk up the stairs. Just when I am in the last stairs to deck 6 the ship started to heel and move more strongly and there was more list to starboard. I stopped and hold on to the fence. I heard glass smashing in the shops on deck 5. Suddenly a soda automate got lose from the bulkhead and slid to the other side, from port to starboard. Then I realized it was serious. I had to get out at all cost! I continued to deck 7. And suddenly behind me the stairs filled with people. It was the people from the restaurant on deck 6. I was one of the first to reach deck 7. But more and more persons arrived. We helped one another to open the door to the port side deck. I reached a locker with life jackets and handed out them to persons around me. Now the ship listed ~30 degrees. "This is serious", I recall I thought at the same time it seemed unreal. After a while I felt there were too many persons around me, I felt entrapped. I took a life jacket and moved forward and finally I was below the support of the life rafts just behind the bridge. With the list I experienced that the ship had slowed down and that it in principle was listing and 'rolling' in the waves. I recall that I felt that the ship would soon be on the side, and that happened later. I estimate the time from I got out until the ship was on the side to ~25-30 minutes."
In a later mail AE states:
"I told my story to the media on Friday 30 September 1994 and that is why I am so certain about it. It was most local media present but I do not think that many survivors told their stories officially so close to the accident. Maybe Kent Härstedt and Sara Hedrenius who became very well known nationally. My police interview was made on 4 October and I did not say anything else there - just more details. Today I have separately checked all recordings of the local media: Carlskoga-TV, Tvärsnytt and TV4 Värmland and my statements of times and sequence of events are very clear. I consider these recordings as evidence. They were broadcast the same day they were recorded (30 September), but I do not believe anybody in the Commission ever saw them. According my understanding many survivors experienced the first listing somewhat differently. I myself was then in the centre corridor and I did not think it was extreme. But it could be that I was in a position like the centre of a sea saw. A few degrees in that position are not so noticeable as at the side of the ship. When I then was in the stairs to deck no. 6 the listing became so severe that the soda machine slid across the floor. It was then the big chaos started, which has been described differently depending where you were on board."
Thus - AE is quite certain about the two unexplained bangs just before 01.00 hrs and that soon after a sudden list developed, exactly as CÖ above and most other surviving passengers 2.1. At the same time persons on deck 1 below the car deck noticed water on the floor(deck). A collision can hardly be excluded from these testimonies.
AE was not interviewed by the police until 4 October 1994. But on that day - 4 October 1994 - the Commission had already told the public what had happened and the cause of the accident 1.4 - the visor. Evidently the Commission was not interested in what the passengers had experienced and what really happened. A collision?
Drama in the Pub
Another survivor - Rolf Sörman (RS) - has informed that he heard or felt the two bangs before the sudden list, when he was in the aft part of the Admirals Pub (on deck 5), opposite the stage. It was just before 23.55 hrs (Swedish time), i.e. 00.55 hrs Estonian time. Soon afterwards RS moved to the opposite, forward end at the exit of the pub. That area was almost empty. The pub was divided by a flower arrangement. At 23.55 hrs Swedish time RS sits down in a chair, and a colleague says good night. RS looked at the clock on the wall and said she should stay until midnight Swedish time, i.e. 01.00 hrs Estonian time. At that time RS thought that the 'Estonia' changed course. Before the movements were longitudinal. The ship then - sometimes between 01.00-01.05 hrs, probably closer to 01.05 hrs, started to move - roll - to starboard. This is the RS interpretation of the course change. First severe seas longitudinally, then sideways. RS thought that the first roll/list was not serious.
The ship straightened up, and it was, when the ship did not roll to port, when RS got afraid. Instead of rolling to port, after a short stop at level, the 'Estonia' rolled to starboard. It was a severe roll, so that RS during the movement to starboard, asked his colleagues to jump on the fixed sofa that was opposite the table.
So they did, while lose furniture and other objects fell to starboard. RS said loudly that the ship had collided with something.
"Hold on, we must get out, run, as soon as she is upright, towards the door. Then is it only up to the open deck, do not look back",
is what RS may have called.
RS judges that the first list was at about 01.05 hrs. The angle of roll was difficult to estimate inside a room, it was maybe 20-25 degrees, all objects except the glasses remained in place at first. The roll was an even movement during 90-120 seconds. The second roll, the one that ended with a permanent list, was greater than the first. Everything lose fell to starboard. Tables, chairs, in principle everything that was not fixed fell to starboard lee. The ship up-righted so it was possible to get to the exit door and to the staircase. It took say 2-3 minutes. RS recalls that it was water up to the window during the roll, where he had sat previously - white foam, but mainly water. RS estimated the angle of heel that the waterline was not far away. RS feared that the ferry was already flooded. (The list must be >35 degrees for the water to reach the windows at the side). Most visitors of the pub and the furniture were in a heap against the starboard bulkhead/side of the ship. More details of RS testimony are found in (33).
RS ran towards the exit in a steep uphill and his friends came after. At the exit door the 'Estonia' rolled again, so that they held on to another and the doorframe. The condition stabilized, so that they could rush from the door to the fence at the stairs leading up. They then had to climb with help of the fence to get out. RS believes it may have taken 3-4 minutes to get out.
The Commission has never contacted RS.
RS finally jumped into the water and swam to lifeboat C where he met 3/E Treu that had a survival suit on. They were soon rescued by a helicopter. They later also met at hospital in Finland. RS noticed that Treu had managed to get his passport with him after having left the control room.
Anxiety, Exhaustion and Stress
The Commission and the Final Report (5) chapter 13.2.1 are an insult:
"The Commission is aware that none of the survivors is a witness proper, in the sense of an observer. All the witnesses are victims of the accident, involved in it and part of a chain of events. Their observations and recollections are thus influenced by prolonged anxiety, exhaustion and stress. All statements (of survivors) are restricted to individual experience ...no witness had any possibility ... (of) an overall view".
As already shown in 2.1 the Commission completely ignored the police protocols of the interviews with the surviving passengers. The Commission based the whole Final Report on one witness report - Treu's - who apparently was not influenced by anxiety, exhaustion and stress 1.48. Survivor/witness AE above does not seem influenced by anxiety, exhaustion or stress. Two days after the accident he tells his story to the media and then on 4 October the same story to the police. But the same day the Commission told the public another story.
All the above witnesses report a sudden list just after 01.00 hrs and the big bangs. But the Commission makes up another story - at 01.00 hrs the Master comes to the bridge, there was a change of watch, there was a telephone call, Linde was sent down to check, Linde waited for five minutes at the reception on deck 5. And in the ECR Treu was happily looking after the engines 4.4.
It might be added that Carl Övberg, MÖ, AE and RS were all fairly young, well-trained strong men, which assisted their escapes.