Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.
2.5 Could more Passengers have survived?
Clearly sudden heel/roll followed by increasing list made it very difficult for most passengers in cabins to evacuate them after the list. No alarm was raised, and even if an alarm had been raised, it is not certain that the passengers knew, what it meant 1.33. It is impossible to walk on a deck sloping more than 18-25 degrees. The only way to survive was to react immediately. The ship was rolling while sinking and, when the ship rolled to port, the decks were flat for a time. Then you could get up. The crew could not do anything to save passengers remaining in the cabins. Probably passengers started to drown already at 01.15 hrs in starboard outside cabins on decks 1 and 4. The persons who started to evacuate early managed to get up to open deck 7, where many were blocked on the port side, while the 'Estonia' sank 3.21.
The port outer side was for a short while flat but trimming on the stern at 01.30 hrs, when the 'Estonia' sank on the stern. When the angle of list was less than 90 degrees, the port side bilge amidship was about 10 meters above the waterline 2.16. It seems that one or two rafts - with many crewmembers onboard - managed to be launched at this time - 01.25-01.30 hrs - probably at the aft end, where the port side was in the waterline. But other passengers, 50-100, moved forward - away from the water - and were later sucked down, when the bow sank.
When the list increased to more than 90 degrees, the ship was sinking after a few minutes. The persons remaining on the port side had little chance to survive.
A few survivors98 got out on the starboard side of deck 7, which was under water already at 01.25 hrs, when the list was 70 degrees. Then the starboard rafts came under water and was released and the starboard lifeboats were ripped off the davits. Some persons managed to reach them.
The Final report (5) states that heroic crewmembers released the 30 port rafts, so that passengers could save themselves. The report says that 250 persons were on the open decks. The truth is probably different. Very few rafts were released on the port side by the crew and the crew used them themselves. Not one person managed to enter a life raft in a dry condition. When the persons were thrown or jumped into the water, badly applied life jackets were ripped off and they drowned 3.21. The crew actions before and after the accident and the relevant safety systems are badly described and analysed in the Final report.
98 One of them was Risto Ojassaar, who was reading a paper in the bed of his cabin, when the sudden listing occurred and he was thrown on his back. The cabin door was on the starboards side and he had to pull himself out into the corridor. With a friend he reached the forward starboard side stairwell and got up to deck 7. The stairwell was filling with water from below, i.e. the deckhouse was being flooded. Risto Ojassaar was immediately swept overboard and first reached a raft, later got into a lifeboat. The friend drowned.