Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.
3.22 Personal Summary of the Accident Investigation. Save yourself - if you can!
The 'Estonia' was built in Germany as the 'Viking Sally' 1980 for coastal trading between Stockholm and Åland. Neither the ship owner, Sally Line, nor the Swedish and the Finnish maritime administrations demanded that all the requirements of the SOLAS for international trade were fulfilled (in spite of any statement to the contrary of the Commission). Save yourself - if you can!
It meant, i.a. that cheap throw-over-board life rafts (probably SOLAS 60 type) were installed, which could not be launched by cranes or davits. To abandon ship a passenger had to jump into the water and swim to a raft that somebody else had thrown into the water 1.33, or ashore. Save yourself - if you can!
They also installed a (too) large number of watertight doors in the watertight bulkheads below the car deck and permitted that these doors, against all rules, were open at sea, so that passengers and crew could move around without climbing up/down over the watertight bulkheads 1.23. The watertight doors could also be opened, and be kept open, from a panel on the bridge, which was a very unusual arrangement. Save yourself - if you can!
To make matters worse a swimming pool was built with connections to the double bottom on deck 0! The double bottom (B/15 meters deep) was evidently required as grounding protection, but on the 'Viking Sally' (TBR 'Estonia') it was used as part of an in-door swimming pool. Save yourself - if you can!
The German shipyard could not have been proud of such a ship.
The Finnish maritime administration then issued a certificate 1980, which was accepted by the Swedish maritime administration, because the two parties had since a long time a silent agreement not to question each others certificates and how to equip the ships. It worked (badly) until 1994, as no accident occurred, which tested the safety. It would have been better that a (small) accident had happened and revealed the incompetence of the Swedish and Finnish maritime administrations in this respect. Save yourself - if you can!
Sally Line, the owners of the 'Viking Sally', - the incompetent Johansson brothers that had inherited the company - went bankrupt in the end of the 80's and the ship suddenly belonged to a bank, which let a competing company run the ship. It is highly likely that the maintenance of the ship then started to deteriorate. Why maintain a ship that does not belong to you? Only the minimal was done. Save yourself - if you can!
When the Estonian/Swedish joint venture company Estline bought the ship 1993 from the bank and changed the name to the 'Estonia' and the trade to between Tallinn-Stockholm, the Estonian maritime administration, whose government was a part owner of the ferry, did not change any safety arrangements on board. Maybe they had learnt from Finland and Sweden that you could interpret the safety rules as you liked - cheap - and to sail around in an unseaworthy condition. Probably Estline had no money - the bank lent 100% of the value of the ship - and there was no extra money to upgrade the ship with correct lifesaving equipment for (short) international voyages across the Baltic 1993. And they did not even close the watertight doors. Save yourself - if you can!
Or another reason was that the Estonian maritime administration had no idea what rules to apply for the passenger ship trade between Tallinn and Stockholm. The Swedish NMA was appointed as consultant and to train the Estonian staff. The Bureau Veritas office in Sweden was appointed by the Estonian NMA to do the certification on behalf of Estonia. This serious error was not even detected, when the shipping company allegedly wrote the new emergency and abandon ship plans to train the new crew 1993, because the plan didn't work. Nobody - ship owner, maritime administration or the crew was interested in safety. Save yourself - if you can!
What they did was the following:- Instead of developing its own safety system, the Estline only copied the earlier (Finnish-Swedish Viking-) system, which was badly described in the Swedish, Finnish and English languages aboard - and believed that it was in order for the new trade Appendix 7. But they never translated the instruction into the Estonian language, and naturally, they never tested the system - even if they maintain that they did it. Save yourself - if you can!
Why did they not test the system? Naturally because then they should have noticed that it did not work - you could not force passengers to jump into the sea, when abandoning the ship (sic) 1993 Appendix 7. They should of course also have detected that it was wrong to sail around with open watertight doors on the Baltic. But no party in the venture was interested in safety at sea. And because there was no money, the maintenance started to deteriorate even more 1.46 - maintenance previously done by a shipyard was now going to be done by the crew. Save yourself - if you can!
The Swedish maritime administration never found any defects on the 'Estonia' at at least five Port State Controls 1993/4. The Swedish maritime administration de facto approved the system, that the passengers should jump into the water, when the ship was going to be abandoned at a test at Tallinn in January 1993 1.34! It is highly probable that other faults were detected later, but that the inspectors were told not to cause trouble for the owners. The shipping line was already losing money. The superintendent of the ship, Mr Ulf Hobro, happened to be an old employee of the Swedish maritime administration. That apparently helped. After the accident Hobro disappeared for a while, but in September 1999 the Swedish maritime administration reemployed Hobro as head of the Stockholm office. Save yourself - if you can!
The Ship was not arrested
That the ship had incorrect equipment, instructions and certificates was by chance detected by other Swedish inspectors - from Malmö - the day before the accident, 1.1 footnote, 1.23 and 1.33, but nothing was done to correct the defects (31). The inspectors could easily have stopped the ship by refusing its entry to Sweden. The ship sailed into disaster a few hours later. All above is easy to prove and it contributed to at least 852 persons dying or disappearing, when the 'Estonia' sank! This is one of the minor reasons why the Swedish government will never permit the accident to be re-examined by an independent Commission. Save yourself - if you can!
When the 'Estonia', on the night of the accident in the middle of the Baltic, apparently sprang a leak, probably at 00.55-00.58 hrs, it resulted in water starting to flood, e.g. the stabiliser room, the swimming pool on deck no. 0 or some other space (aft?). The cause of the leakage is another story and is dealt with elsewhere - it was probably due to a collision. The leak was of course observed by the watch keeping crew (including Treu and Linde), and they apparently had problems starting the bilge pumps. They thus called upon Sillaste, who came down and started the bilge pumps 1.3 unless Sillaste was not already in place trying to start the stabilisers. The leakage was considerable and exceeded the capacity of the bilge pumps and they naturally tried to close the relevant watertight doors in the bulkheads. Unfortunately it was not possible locally, 1.23 and 2.3, but probably they managed to do it from the bridge. The leakage was thus isolated and under control. No alarm to passengers was raised. All the officers were at this time mustered to the bridge (including wives and girl friends) and some lifeboats were made ready. The Master arrived and was informed about the leakage and that the watertight doors had been closed. The speed may have been reduced - there are some observations that the speed was reduced just before 01.00 hrs - but the Commission of course maintained that the ship kept 14-15 knots speed until after the list (at 01.15 hrs) based on the testimony of third engineer Treu. Treu lied naturally 1.48. Save yourself - if you can! Treu did!
At this time - after the big bangs due to the collision but before the sudden listing - a survivor from deck 1 observed that water flowed out from an air pipe ending on deck 1 below the waterline! This air pipe was located just above the swimming pool in the double bottom on deck 0, and it is possible that it was connected to a cofferdam around the swimming pool. Save yourself - if you can!
This the survivor did so he could report this strange observation.
When the master on the Bridge checked the panel for the watertight doors, he observed that the indication was both red and green for various doors, i.e. he got the impression that several doors were open. When he tried to close these doors, he made a fatal error. He actually opened two or more doors! The result was water shooting out of filled compartments just before 01.00 hrs. And then the water spread on deck 0 reducing the initial stability due to free water surfaces on the inner bottom. The result was logical - a sudden list to starboard occurred at about 01.02 hrs, when persons were thrown down into the starboard lee, 2.1 and 2.16 . Save yourself - if you can!
The sudden list apparently occurred at 01.02-01.05 hrs and the ship was at the side - at 90 degrees list - at 01.30 hrs (wrist watches stopped or were broken, when the ship was on the side, and when persons jumped into the water). What happened during these 25 minutes? The list was so sudden that the crew never reduced the speed manually - the engines stopped by themselves - as the crew on the bridge hanged on to consoles and panels, unless they, as all passengers, evacuated the spaces, where they were, immediately. The list probably occurred with about 300-600 tons of water in at least three compartments below the car deck - the leakage itself had started 00.55-58 hrs. After the sudden list >30 degrees at 01.02-01.05 hrs the 'Estonia' stabilized itself at say 15 degrees heel with three or more partly filled compartments - passengers and crew naturally immediately - instinctively - started to evacuate - mainly to open deck 7 port. They had 10 minutes to get out (not five as suggested by the Commission!) - while water spread through open watertight doors in the centre line on deck 0 - one compartment after the other filled up with water - which caused a jerky increase in list - starting say at 01.15 hrs. It meant that during 10 minutes many persons had time to get out - 25 degrees list was the limit to evacuate, but when the ship rolled to port the slope of the deck and stairs was less. Most persons only needed to climb one, two or three decks - only the persons on deck 1 had to climb six decks (but the narrow stairwell to deck 4 helped). It was not so hopeless to get out - but - Save yourself - if you can!
The Commission evidently delayed the time of the sudden list to 01.15/6 hrs to explain its false course of events - and it enabled the Commission also to suggest that only, say, 250 persons managed to escape during five minutes. Maybe the Commission did not want to admit that more persons got out? Save yourself - if you can!
It is possible that as many as >500 persons managed to get out at deck 7 during the first 15 minutes. Save yourself - if you can!
But most of these persons were later forced to jump into the water without a life jacket. Save yourself - if you can!
Why does the writer believe the above? Many survivors must have seen how many persons were on deck 7 port at 01.15 hrs. But there are not many questions and answers in the police protocols about it, and the reports of Schager 2.1 about the number of persons seen on deck 7 at this time are vague. The testimonies in chapter 6.3.10 in the Final Report (5) have been edited, so that the information is useless. This is remarkable. Save yourself - if you can!
It is very probable that many more than 237 persons, as suggested by the Commission, managed to get out. The sudden list at 01.02-01.05 hrs must have been observed by everybody aboard. Everybody awoke - the time was midnight Swedish time and the arrival was at 09.00 hrs Swedish time - and it is probable that a majority of the persons aboard - almost 1 000 persons - were still up or awake in their beds. Say that 600 (of 989) persons were awake and soon understood that something was wrong and that they had to escape. Say that another 200 persons awoke and decided to get out, then 800 persons were on the way out at 01.05-01.10 hrs. Save yourself - if you can!
Evidence 1 - many persons were naked on deck 7 - they had slept, when the list occurred but still managed to leave the cabin and get out. Others dressed and had to unblock the cabin doors and lost several minutes but also managed to get out. Only very old persons and mothers with children remained in the cabins - everybody else attempted - and succeeded - to escape. Save yourself - if you can!
Evidence 2 - divers only saw 110 -120 bodies inside the wreck - most of them trapped in the stairwells. Had the ship been salvaged maybe you had only found another 80-90 additional bodies, i.e. total 200 and had then been able to verify that most cabins were empty!. This was one reason - among others - not to salvage the wreck - there were very few bodies left inside the wreck. And with no identified bodies, no crime. Save yourself - if you can!
It is possible that >500 person got out and there was plenty of space on deck 7 port for them! Listen to RS for example 2.12. He got out early and has told the writer that quite a number got out after him from the aft main stairwell - but most persons must have gotten out amidships and a few from the forward stairwell. Maybe only 400 got out on the port side but it was good. Others came out on the starboard side - it was easier - but they had to jump immediately overboard, when that deck came under water as early as 01.22 hrs. Save yourself - if you can!
When all these person - >500! - with our without life jackets had jumped into the water, they discovered that they did not have a chance to get into the infamous throw-over-board life rafts (probably SOLAS 60), which should have never been permitted on board in the first place and should have been burnt (destroyed) latest in January 1993, when the trade changed, and replaced by new, correct ones. The reason, why the Commission minimised the number of persons which managed to escape to deck 7 to the number of rescued and dead found, is that it would not conclude that the life rafts were totally illegal and unsafe. They did not work! They were never meant to be used. They were there as decorations! Worthless. Save yourself - if you can!
The majority of the persons jumping into the sea drowned and disappeared under water already at 01.30 - 02.00 hrs - just before the 'Mariella' arrived. The water was cold, the waves were high. Save yourself - if you can!
But only 90-100 bodies were officially found after the accident! Where did all the others end up - 200-300 bodies - if >500 persons got out? Not one body was officially found later! Naturally they drowned - without life jacket - but they should have re-floated three, four weeks later due to development of gases inside the body. With a life jacket they should have floated, but the writer does not believe that they ever got a life jacket. All was a mess on deck 7 between 01.15 - 01.30 hrs. Only the hundred first persons - including RS and his friends found life jackets. The others never got one because there was only a limited number of life jackets stored on the open deck - in spite of the statements of the Commission to the contrary - that there was an orderly distribution of life jackets on deck 7 at 01.15 hrs. Save yourself - if you can!
We know that about 92-94 dead bodies, with or without life jackets, were salvaged - mostly from rafts but also from the sea during 12 hours after the accident. But what happened later? Not one body was found or salvaged. Life rafts, lifeboats, EPIRBS, empty life jackets, etc were picked up on the Estonian coast starting three, four days after the accident. But not one body. It is almost too good and makes you wonder. Save yourself - if you can!
Why were no bodies ever found? Well, if, say, 300 bodies had been swept up on the Estonian coast three, four weeks after the accident, the relatives and others would start thinking - why? Did they have to jump into the sea without life jackets? So it never happened! Save yourself - if you can!
Thus - the sudden list occurred at 01.02-01.05 hrs and the angle of heel was 90 degrees at 01.30 hrs - then all aboard had at least ten minutes between 01.05 and 01.15 hrs - list 15 - 25 degrees - to get out. Say that 150 persons got out before 01.10 hrs - all persons in the public rooms, etc. - it took them five minutes - then another 250-350 persons got out between 01.10-01.15 hrs, so that 400-500 was out in the open at 01.15 hrs. The writer believes that. Save yourself - if you can!
Where is the evidence that that they found, or did not find, any bodies three weeks later? Did they search? Well, ships were out looking for the visor, which probably already had been found at the bow, but all bodies would first have sunk only to float up three or four weeks later. At that time the Commission had already presented a false first interim report on 4 October. The Commission had announced a false position of the wreck. The Commission had stated that the visor had not been found. And then the Commission had announced that the visor was suddenly found on 18 October a mile West of the wreck. But no evidence has ever been presented for, e.g. the visor. Does anybody believe such a Commission? Save yourself - if you can!
It is very probable that >237 persons evacuated the 'Estonia' and that >200 bodies were later recovered at the Estonian coast three four weeks after the accident. The Commission (admiral Iivonen) could not admit it, because it would prove that the course of events of the Commission was false, and that the Estonians in the Commission were already 100% committed to cover up the real facts. These bodies were later probably recovered and sunk at the wreck. Only the future will prove this theory right or wrong. Save yourself - if you can!
But let's continue the drama on board after 01.05 hrs. The crew might have turned the ship into the wind (to port) or away from the wind (to starboard) and then the crew left the ECR and the bridge. There was total confusion. Save yourself - if you can!
That the Mayday was sent so late at 01.22 hrs onwards - >20 minutes after the sudden list - must have been due to panic on board, unless the Commission also changed the time of the Mayday - unlikely, or that somebody on the bridge prevented sending the Mayday. The crew on the bridge must have left the bridge - maybe some escaped with the no. 1 MoB-boat - but then, when the ship stabilised itself, some returned to send the Mayday. Some witnesses (the infamous crew witnesses Treu & Co.) say they saw these officers later - at 01.30 hrs leaving the bridge through the aft port door - but it is hardly possible - the ship was then on the side and sank a few minutes later. Save yourself - if you can!
Because when 4 deck aft was under water, the car deck started to fill from above through the 4 deck ventilation openings of the car deck space below and the ship sank fast on the stern. The attending ferries could not do anything to pick up survivors in the water. Not one lifeboat or rescue boat was launched by e.g. four big ferries. The weather was too bad. Save yourself - if you can!
When the Estonian president Lennart Meri was told about the accident a few hours later he immediately appointed his own Commission to investigate the accident. But the three prime ministers met later the same day, 1.2 and 4.4, and they decided that another, joint Commission should be appointed. What the prime ministers discussed and what instructions were given are unclear. The Swedish and Finnish members of the Commission were appointed very early. They must have known exactly what had happened - that the ship had sunk due to leakage and faulty procedures aboard. At least one crewmember - Sillaste - told Finnish police that the ship was leaking 1.3. Contributing causes were incorrect safety equipment, bad maintenance and lack of emergency instructions, etc.
For some unknown reason the Swedish and Finnish authorities agreed with the Estonians not to tell the public the Truth and to cover up all the crimes.
Estonia had de facto sent an unseaworthy ship to sea and leakage, which should have been controlled, had developed into a disaster of tragic proportions. The public had the right to feel anger. But apparently decided the three prime ministers, for political reasons, to cover up the truth - the Swedish vice prime minister Odd Engström hinted at this 1998 1.35. The cover up was simplified by the fact that the visor had been partly detached after the listing and during the sinking. The Commission thus decided quickly - on 28 September 1994 - to blame the accident on bad weather, defective visor locks and that the visor had simply fallen off and that water had entered the car deck and had sunk the ship. It was a very bold move - it is not easy to falsify an accident investigation report - and the Commission had not yet found the allegedly lost visor 1.4. The Commission apparently thought they could recreate a similar type of accident as the 'Herald of Free Enterprise'. Then they 'found' the visor in a very strange location 1.14, which the Commission later could not explain. The remainder of the developments of the investigation has been described in this book. Save yourself - if you can!
... wasn't it a wonderful cover-up of the accident ...
The four surviving crewmembers - the key witnesses - were forced to manipulate their testimonies. The Commission was then caught in a web of lies and contradictory statements, i.a. about the stability, but it ice coldly calculated that the shocked and ignorant public never would discover the lies.
The media of all sorts helped to distribute the disinformation 1.44.
To dive down and to make a proper examination of the hull had to be manipulated.
Probably the Finns had already found the visor at the wreck on 30 September and filmed it on 2 October 1994, but then the Commission had already started hinting that the visor had been lost before the 'accident' - the listing - occurred.
The visor could therefore not be found at the wreck.
Swedish divers had probably detached the visor from the wreck between 2 and 9 October, so that the Commission could film the fore ship without a visor on 9 October. But apparently they had blown a big hole in the starboard front bulkhead in this operation, so it was necessary to censor and edit the films not to show it. The result of the only dive expedition had to be falsified, 1.16 and 3.10, i.e. completely false statements about the diving were given by the Swedish NMA and Johan Franson, who directed the diving, to support the Commission. Franson then sent reports with disinformation to the Swedish government and to the so called Ethical Advisory group, which later decided that wreck and bodies should not be touched (as a rubbish heap) and that no bodies should be identified. No bodies, no crime!
All persons questioning the official cause of accident were effectively silenced in various ways. It was easy in Sweden, Finland and Estonia, where most experts were employed by shipping companies and universities, which in various ways depended on the government authorities. A message was delivered that they should keep quiet - and most experts in North Europe apparently agreed as few talk about the 'Estonia' accident and the Final Report.
The writer was far away in the Mediterranean and Red Sea, when the 'Estonia' sank. Could the same thing happen to the writer's ferries? When he later asked that question to some Swedish 'experts' they all behaved very strangely - most of them wanted to keep quiet. Actually the writer bought a ferry in the Baltic 1998 and before the sale he took the Swedish seller's superintendent to a restaurant. One idea was to present the seller with a copy of the book 'Lies and truths ... '. But before that was possible the seller's man - with a few beers in the stomach - suggested that ... wasn't it a wonderful cover-up of the accident!?
He never got his copy of the book. The writer understands the despair, anger and distress of the survivors and all relatives of the victims. They were not told the Truth. And they have little chance to find the Truth as no government or authority will help them. The few officials who today stand up and defend the Final Report make an embarrassing impression, but nobody cares. Save yourself - if you can!
The Commission 1994 decided - stupidly - to blame the accident on the German shipyard, which appointed its own experts to investigate 1995. These experts must quickly have found out that everything the Commission stated was disinformation. The Germans was in a very difficult situation - should they accuse the Commission of a criminal cover up of the real facts - or play along? Save yourself - if you can!
The Germans played along - pointed out some obvious errors of the Commission but kept quiet about the big error - that all the Commission stated was lies. Save yourself - if you can!
All lies could easily have been detected if proper stability calculations with water in the superstructure had been done immediately after the accident showing that the 'Estonia' would have capsized and floated upside down with about 1 500-2 000 tons of water on the car deck. No doubt somebody told this to the Commission, and the Commission decided to state the opposite. The Commission got help from Mr. Veli-Matti Junnila of Ship Consultancy Ltd OY/AB who produced false stability calculations to this effect. Junnila simply assumed that the deck house was watertight! Veli-Matti Junnila then became the stability expert of the German group of experts providing it with the same falsifications. Save yourself - if you can!
Unfortunately no responsible party will ever - in the near future - admit that the accident investigation was a cover up of a crime. It means that similar accidents and investigations (and counter-investigations) will happen in the future, unless the 'Estonia' investigation is re-opened as per IMO Resolution A.849(20), Annex paragraph 13 Foreword, which clearly rules that accident investigations shall be re-opened and review all new facts, which change earlier analysis and conclusions. Save yourself - if you can!
But the Swedish government - Ms Mona Sahlin - does not want to follow the IMO procedures. She says that this must be done in agreement with Finland and Estonia, which are signatories to the same laws, which apparently also have no interest to re-open any investigation as per the laws. Why are Swedish authorities and shipping companies afraid of real safety at sea? Real safety at sea is only possible with correct casualty investigations. It is nothing to negotiate with Finland and Estonia about.
Just before the fifth anniversary of the accident the Finnish delegation of the Commission presented a memorandum (27), which cast new light over many conclusions at that date 4.1! Save yourself now - if you can!