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Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.

'The commander must leverage the potential of the media for successful military operations'.

"Howdy" Belknap, 1996


1.44 Disinformation about the 'Estonia' in Swedish Media. Anders Hellberg - DN

This chapter is about the journalistic coverage of the 'Estonia' investigation. All media, newspapers, radio and TV seem to have been seriously affected by the trauma of the accident itself, which resulted into a strange avoidance of critical review of the investigation by the Commission. Normal journalistic methods were apparently not to be used.

The media has never clearly reported that from the beginning (a) the investigation was secret and (b) all evidence was confidential. The media has then not made it clear that what they reported was statements and opinions of the Commission without access to the background material - it was secret. All disinformation of the Commission has since been published by the media as evidence that something was wrong - particularly the design of the visor. The examples of disinformation are numerous as shown in previous chapters. The biggest Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter has without any critical review whatsoever published all statements of Forssberg and Stenström and the Commission without asking obvious question - where is the evidence?

News not based on Evidence

Very few journalists took time for though and analysis,90 and critical opinions could not be published. It seems that everybody had to believe that the visor caused the 'Estonia' accident. Other risks, e.g. leakage, were unbelievable and it seems still to be the case - six years later. It also seems that when an official lie has been established, even if it completely unrealistic, it cannot be questioned 1.1.

Now a lot of people will disagree and say, but lately a lot has been written about the alleged hole in the superstructure side, etc. This is correct - but the hole in the side has been described to be 30 or 5 m² large to be able to sink the 'Estonia' and nobody has seen such a big hole. Actually - a hole of 0,2-0,3 m² in the underwater hull is sufficient to sink the 'Estonia' - quite difficult to find, and the media has not said so.

The writer was not in Sweden in October 1994, when the disinformation process started, but research shows that the media only promoted one cause of accident. The 'Estonia' sank due to water on top of the car deck in the superstructure, basta!, even if it was impossible. The visor was ripped off before the listing occurred, basta! The ramp was ripped open, etc., etc.

The media could apparently not report that eight waves would have smashed everything on the car deck in pieces and that the 'Estonia' would have capsized and floated upside down on the hull in one minute, if the ramp had been ripped fully open - like the 'Herald of Free Enterprise'. The media could not publish correct stability information. And it was very easy to misinform about roro-ships. Of course many roro-cargo ships had sunk due to water on the car deck, but these ships were completely different from roro-passenger ships like the 'Estonia'. A roro-cargo ship has minimum freeboard and no subdivision in the hull below the car deck to prevent sinking. A roro-passenger ship is exactly like a passenger ship with substantial freeboard, subdivision of the hull below the car deck and should comply with strict damage stability criteria - two compartments flooded, etc. So the media mixed up the two types of ships. The authors of the book 'Katastrofkurs' (20) quoted below did the same thing.

The media had to report that the life saving equipment and the safety system were in perfect order on the 'Estonia', because the Commission said so, when it was crystal clear that nothing worked.

Facts not published

Media had to work very hard to promote the Commission and its false cause of accident and false sequence of events, and later it was impossible to turn back. To speak about an independent free press in Sweden is not possible with regard to the 'Estonia'. The bosses of the media concerns did not wish to upset powerful politicians and civil servants, because they needed their support in many other ways, and the normal journalists did what they were told. Opinions and facts that did not tally with the agreed truth had little chance to be heard.91

Never during the 'Estonia' investigation 1994-1997 had the media asked the Commission for the evidence of their statements. It seems the journalists could not ask the question - "On what proven facts are you basing your statement?"


A classical example of this disinformation is the book 'Katastrofkurs' (20) published in March 1996 by the Dagens Nyheter reporter Anders Hellberg (together with the Göteborgs Posten reporter Anders Jörle).

The book was a great success, as there was a big demand for correct information about the 'Estonia' 1996. The public was then still suspicious about the Commission and the book was promoted as a fresh, critical review of the work of the Commission at that time.

However, all essential information about the cause of the accident itself and the condition of the ship itself is false in the book - it only repeats the false allegations of the Commission. It should be clear that Anders Hellberg had access to confidential material kept by Commission. If he could see all, or if could only see what the Commission wished him to see, is still not clear. The book is, like the Final Report, another clever labyrinth of real - unimportant - facts and pure disinformation.

No Access to secret Material

Anders Hellberg has publicly stated that he had not had access to

"a lot of secret testimonies and other working material",

when he wrote the book 1995/6 about the 'Estonia' accident together with Anders Jörle, as his critics suggest. But the book 'Katastrofkurs' is full of references to secret and confidential material.

Access to secret Material

On page 63 in the book (20) Hellberg/Jörle quote verbally from a letter from the German group of experts to the Commission of the 27 October 1995. The Commission had then more or less completed its examinations. The letter was recorded on 2 November 1995 in the diary of the Swedish Board of Accident Investigation (SHK) and made secret as per the Swedish secrecy law SL 8:6. It was not made public until the 9 March 1998, 29 months later. The letter was of course top secret, when Hellberg wrote his book.

On page 64 of the book (20) you can read:

"... let us now start studying the different opinions of the Commission and the shipyard without prejudice: Both parties agree that the 'Estonia' had an accident and had sunk because great amounts of water had entered the car deck. The reason for this was that the visor had fallen off and thereby pulled the watertight ramp to the open position. Now the car deck was open to the seas. According to the Commission, which is not questioned by the yard, it is enormous amounts of water, which entered in only a few minutes, when the ramp finally is open. Michael Huss of the Royal Institute of Technology, estimates that 2 100 tons of water have entered the car deck in six minutes. But there the agreement ends."

The quote from the book is disinformation based on manipulated information.

The calculation of Huss that 2 100 tons of water had flowed into the car deck in six minutes was in a ten pages report (12) dated 4 January 1995 to the Commission, recorded at the SHK on 9 January 1995 1.9. The report was immediately made secret and was not made public until 4 December 1997. Huss has said that he has not talked to outside parties (as ordered by Forssberg), which means that Mr Hellberg one way or another must have had access to the secret report in the archive.

And it must be just that report as Huss later - in a report shown in supplement no. 522 of (5), undated but probably from 1996 - changed his mind and stated that it took 28 minutes for 2 000 tons to flow in 1.9. In the Final Report - figure 13.2 - the Commission decided that it took 8 minutes. Huss refers in supplement no. 522 to a Finnish report - supplement 523 - where on page 9 it is suggested that the water inflow was 1 500-2 000 tons per minute, i.e. the ship should have capsized and floated upside down after maximum1,5 minutes. So the Commission was not sure about any six minutes.

German Statements falsified

But more serious - there is no evidence at all that the shipyard in 1995 had agreed that

" the 'Estonia' had an accident and had sunk because great amounts of water had entered the car deck".

The German opinions were clear from four letters and reports to the Commission 1.22 as follows:

1) Letter (51 pages) dated 14 August 1995,
2) Report (16 pages + 11 pages appendices) handed in to the Commission at a meeting in August 1995,
3) Letter (10 pages) dated 27 October 1995 (mentioned above) and
4) Letter (6 pages) dated 22 January 1996.

All four documents/letter were made secret as per the Swedish secrecy law SL 8:6 by the SHK and were not made public until 9 March 1998.

The shipyard had not sent any other letters and report to the Commission in the time August 1995-January 1996. It is clear from the letters and report that the Germans had no knowledge about the Huss calculations.

Furthermore - the Germans have never 'agreed' that the visor should have had fallen off and pulled open the ramp. It is a free fantasy of Hellberg - he knew the Germans would not spot the disinformation in a book written in the Swedish language. The Germans in above letters only discussed the visor design and maintenance, which the Commission censored in the Final Report (5). Among other things the Germans showed that the wave load could not have broken the locks and hinges of the visor, unless the maintenance was bad. Hellberg quoted these arguments on pages 64-73 in his book (20).

What the Germans thought of the Hellberg/Jörle book was expressed on page 4 in a letter (87 pages + appendices) dated 22 July 1996, recorded the 2 August in the diary and immediately made secret by the SHK (like all German letters), and made public the 6 March 1998. In this letter (page 76) the Germans suggested that the 'Estonia' got a sudden list at 01.02 hrs, but that the visor could not have fallen off until after 01.15 hrs (if the visor pulled open the ramp was not said). Evidently the German conclusion was that the visor could not have caused the sudden listing! The letter also contained information to the effect that the 'Estonia' was leaking. But Hellberg/Jörle suggested the opposite in their book!

Hellberg/Jörle quoted then verbally in their book (20) parts from the protocols of testimonies of survivors. All these testimonies were not made public until 4 December 1997 and nobody had access to them, particularly not the Germans that spent a lot of money themselves to interview all survivors to find out what had actually happened.

Finally - Hellberg-Jörle, with no (sic) access to secret material, referred in their book - in the footnote on page 89 in (20) to the 'The shipyard's own investigation page 5'!! It was about the German letter in act B125** 1.22 of the SHK archive - one of the German letter made secret by Swedish secrecy law SL 8:6 until March 1998!

Evidently Hellberg - and Jörle - had access to secret material, when they wrote their book - published in March 1996 - and at that time the Germans had not published anything about the 'Estonia'. Hellberg had - apart from the German early letters - access to the Huss report. As the Germans never told anybody that they 'agreed' with the Commission, Hellberg and Jörle just made it up. A classical example of disinformation.

However, Hellberg also reported another number of survivors than the Commission 1.41. If it were an accident in the job, or if Hellberg got his numbers from the Commission, which later changed them in the Final Report (5), is still not clear.

Neither Hellberg nor Jörle - or the Commission for that matter - has ever responded to any suggestions of the writer. Hellberg is still reporter at DN. Jörle works as press (information) secretary of the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspection agency. It is quite logical that they do no reply - they cannot give a proper answer. They are not like the sick person in a mental hospital who thought he was the emperor Napoleon. One day a doctor thought he could heal the sick person. He said: "Majesty, did you use cars, when you invaded Russia?" "Of course not" Napoleon said. The doctor then pointed out through a window to a parking place full of cars outside the hospital and asked: "What are those?" And the emperor replied: "Horses".

During 1997 media nevertheless published a large number of critical articles about the Commission, which were preparing the Final Report. However - only minor details of the investigation were criticised. The essential parts - the cause and the sequence of events - have never been questioned.


The ultimate question is: Why was it necessary to misinform about an accident like the 'Estonia'? The answer is maybe in 4.3, 4.4 and 4.5? And who ordered the disinformation?

However, the disinformation continues in 2000-2001. The Bemis dive expedition 2.24 was criticised in the press before it had started in August 2000. Then there were daily reports how unprofessional all was done (without having anybody aboard to check). After the expedition the Bemis films were criticised but - hast Du mir gesehen - the public was told that the Bemis films were going to be shown in Estonian and Swedish TV with comments by a panel of 'experts' in November 2000. The divers/filmmakers themselves, who had made the job, were naturally not invited - they had been arrested on the spot as per the graveyard peace law 1.19.

Strangely enough the two TV companies never showed the most interesting parts of the films - the big damage in the starboard collision bulkhead of the superstructure 3.10. Instead they showed a film made by an ROV about a possible damage in the starboard side above the waterline.

The experts naturally agreed that they could not see any damage. It has never been officially clarified why the big damage in the starboard collision bulkhead was not shown and why the 'experts' were not asked how it had come about. Then the media made great news about the Bemis films - they did not show anything new. Quite clever disinformation. Media created the impression that Bemis had made a careful examination of the whole wreck - and did not find any unreported damages, while it was clear that Bemis only could do spot checks at some areas, and e.g. did not examine the starboard hull for a fracture at, e.g. the sauna/pool compartment.

The writer has later - February 2001 - offered all big Swedish dailies copies of pictures of the big damage, which the JAIC denies exist, with explanations. No paper replied. The writer had an opportunity to talk to the managing director, Thorbjörn Larsson, of Swedish TV4, the company that viewed the Bemis film. Larsson of course said that they - TV4 - always publish all interesting material. But the big damage in the collision bulkhead was apparently 'not interesting'. Disinformation. Anyway - you can see the big unreported damage.

A completely false accident investigation needs apparently the support of the media to be accepted by the public.


90 There are many exceptions which are clear from quotations, etc. in this book, but no Swedish journalist or paper except FinansTidningen Appendix 5 has ever interviewed or asked the writer about advice or opinion. Interesting enough - when the Swedish daily Expressen put a link to this web site in connection with an article about the 'Estonia' on 17 March 2001, the web site was put out of order for three days - technical error!

91 However the writer got a chance to publish once on DN Debatt 960815 2.1. And the writer has published articles in other newspapers - SvD, GP, FTi, Corren, SST, Hbl, etc., but there has never been any follow up. The Commission has never replied - except with abuse.

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