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Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation

1.12 'One of the most probable Causes'. The Ramp was not open

Meister, Lehtola and Forssberg wrote a quite detailed document (7) about events and causes of the accident, which on 17 October 1994 was sent to the governments of Estonia and Finland, to the Swedish NMA and to the shipping company Estline, as follows:

1. The bow door (visor) has (sic) separated from the ship as a result of failure of all three locking mechanisms. According to the observations made by members of the crew this happened at about 01.15 when water was simultaneously observed on the TV-monitor, entering the car deck from openings along the vertical sides of the forward ramp. The failures have taken place, in case of the two side locks, in the welding of the locking eye plates to the bow visor and in case of the centre lock (as previously shown) by failure of the lugs carrying the locking plunger unit.

2. Following the failure of the locking arrangements the bow visor has opened up under the wave loads. The deck mounted hinge points have eventually failed as a result of uncontrolled movement of the 55 tons visor, leaving it attached only by hydraulic actuating cylinders.

3. During the subsequent unrestrained movement of the bow visor it hit the bow ramp in several modes, including hits from the rear to the upper protrusion of the ramp, causing it to become dislodged from its locking arrangements and to move to a partly open position. The bow visor has ultimately separated from the ship and disappeared overboard.

4. Partial opening of the ramp had allowed water to enter the car deck due to heavy sea. Collection of water on the car deck eventually led to the loss of stability and capsizing of the vessel.

5. After the vessel had turned over to almost 90 degrees starboard list, which is estimated to have taken place in less than twenty minutes after the damage to the forward ramp, it started to sink with the stern first. The ship disappeared from the radar screen of a Finnish surveillance station39 at 01.48.

6. The vessel turned during the phase of losing stability and landed on the seabed with an almost easterly heading. It is assumed at this stage that this was partly an attempt by the officers on the bridge to turn the ship around and partly by the wave action after the ship had lost propulsion power.

7. The locations of the EPIRBs have not been found during the video documentation and their status is therefore not known at the present time.

8. Emergency MAYDAY signals were sent by 'Estonia' at 01.24 and were received by ships in the area and the MRCC at Turku.

On 17 October the Commission thus repeated that the visor had been detached for some reasons (no evidence of anything), that the ramp had moved to a partially open position, and that ship had capsized, even if the latter evidently was not the case. A capsize does not take 33 minutes between 01.15 and 01.48 hrs (or 01.02 and 01.33 hrs!) A capsize is a sudden loss of stability - not buoyancy - resulting in the ship turning very quickly - and later floating - upside down on the hull - no buoyancy loss. Capsize is only caused by stability loss.

No other causes of accident have since been presented to the governments of Estonia, Finland or Sweden. Nobody in these governments have for seven years questioned the work of the Commission or if it fulfils international standards of accident investigations. That a semi-private accident investigation Commission manages to establish a strange sinking accident with >850 lives lost in three weeks, without having examined the wreck with divers or having found and examined the visor, is in fact a miracle. The ship was in principle unsinkable with a watertight hull subdivided into 14 watertight compartments, but it sank in 30-40 minutes and the alleged cause of accident - water in the superstructure - due to faulty locks of the visor on the superstructure was established in record time.

Note again from the above official statement that the ramp protecting the superstructure is reported not to have been fully open. Note paragraph 4 where it is stated that the stability was lost and that the ship capsized. Evidently the 'Estonia' never lost its stability and it never capsized - it sank slowly, while the list increased - she was stable, albeit with a list, >148 survivors got out. Linde, Treu, Sillaste, Kadak - our chief witnesses - had no problems to get out and survive.

But the most unbelievable thing of the whole investigation circus is that no other possible causes were ever mentioned or investigated.

A big Hole in the Side - but not in the Final Report

The following day 18 October the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter Appendix 5 reported that, apart from partial opening of the ramp, the visor or its attachments had ripped a big opening damage in the hull plating (they probably meant superstructure plating as the visor was not attached to the hull plating except via its bottom, Atlantic lock, and its deck plating is not damaged at all), which had accelerated the sinking process. The damage opening in the hull (superstructure?) side plating had been seen on the video films, which was confirmed by the Swedish NMA observer in the Commission, captain Sten Anderson. Later, when the Final report (5) was published, no hull (or superstructure) side damages were reported.

The ship had been subject to threats.40 The writer has checked all protocols of the 20 meetings (most of them only one page long, very poor, no descriptions at all) of the Commission. Not a word about leakage or bilge pumps. What happened to the testimony of Mr Sillaste 1.3 that there was a big leak and that the bilge pumps were running? Not a word about watertight bulkheads and watertight doors and their control/indication, that water on the car deck tips the ship upside down, not a word about the possibility that the crew could have made mistakes or lied, not a word about slowing down the ship before the accident, etc.

The Commission is only worried how to write the water-on-the-car-deck-in-the-superstructure Final Report. It is clear that only a few persons headed by Stenström actually tried to write such a report. The contributions of the others were only stupid opinions. In the beginning each 'meeting' or casual get together lasted two days - the first day followed by a good dinner followed by a second day of chat. Obviously the Commission thought it was easy for Stenström to write a false Final Report. But then the work slowed down. Stenström started to have doubts. A typical (confidential) protocol from the 13th meeting 26/27 September 1996 at Stockholm is (act A204a*) as follows:

26 September

1. Chairman Forssberg welcomed the participants and opened the meeting. The order of the meeting and list of participants are attached to the protocol.

(Order of meeting - 1. Opening of the meeting, 2. Approval of the order of the meeting, 3. Chairman, 4. Discussion about the Final Report, 5. Work schedule, 6. Dates for next and following meetings, 7. Various).

2. The order of the meeting was approved.
3. The Commission started to review the proposal of the Final Report as per the order of the meeting.

27 September

4. The work continued.
5. It was decided that the next meeting was going to be at Stockholm 19-21 November 1996.
6. The meeting was closed.

At the protocol:

Olof Forssberg

The above is the only report how the Commission did its investigation in September 1996. It is evidently impossible to review the work of the Commission 1994-1997 based on protocols such as the one above, which did not even follow the order of the meeting. The Commission apparently did nothing but review the 'proposal' of the Final Report. Proposal? Stenström had given up. He died five months later.

The Commission then divided into different management-, work- and editing groups, which anyway worked without coordination, as reflected in the Final Report (5) 1.21.

The very short and limited protocols of the Commission do not confirm that there was any proper investigation at all. Nothing is properly recorded - and today not one former, surviving member of the Commission dares to explain any unclear statements in the Final Report (5).

The reason for this is probably concluded in 4.5.

On 17 October the Commission thought that only partial opening of the ramp protecting the superstructure was sufficient to sink the ship. This was a stupid invention of Stenström.


39 The radar was at Finnish Utö - about 25 NM from the position of the accident Appendix 5.

40 Johannes Johanson, director of Estlines, told 4 October that the shipping company had been informed last year that an accident might occur on the Baltic. He said that security measures had been intensified after the warning. (Finnish News Bureau - Reuter). The Final Report (5) does not mention any 'security measures' aboard.

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