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

4.3 Questions without Answers. Where was the Visor found?

There are still many questions without answer about the 'Estonia' accident.

As the accident was caused by human beings, it is important to know the answers. It is an important part of the healing process among relatives and survivors. That the Commission lied and spread disinformation has been established in Part 1 and that Lehtola & Co. continues the process is clear from the previous chapters. Regardless, the Swedish government does not want to appoint a new investigation, not even making a summary of questions never examined by the Commission. There are today many new facts that were never examined by the 'Estonia' investigators and the Analysis group and that contradict the Final Report. There is thus reason to examine some new facts presented in this book parts 2 and 3 from a new perspective.

A logical question is -

How could the Visor be lost, if the Ramp was never open?

How could the visor jump over the closed ramp and sink 1 560 meters West of the wreck as suggested in the Final report (5)? The writer first thought that the visor was stricken off and slid off the ramp sideways after the listing occurred - is it still possible? Or was the visor detached by help of explosives under water and then pulled off? How possible is the assumption that the visor was actually found at the wreck? Or was visor location/position 1 560 meters West of the wreck of 18 October 1994 false - disinformation? Below is an attempt to answer these questions with a repetition of facts and statements presented earlier:-

Wreck found 30 September and filmed 2 October - large Object at the Bow

The same day the 'Estonia' sank on 28 September 1994 the prime ministers of Estonia, Finland and Sweden decided to appoint an international Commission to investigate the accident 1.5. The investigation was to be secret and not as per the IMO resolutions. The wreck was apparently found with help of echo sounder/sonar two days later on 30 September by the Finnish vessel 'Suunta' and on 2 October the wreck was filmed by an ROV camera from the Finnish vessel 'Halli'. We were told that the visor at the forward part of the superstructure was missing. We were also told a false wreck position. We were told the ramp was closed.

Furthermore, when the Finns found and examined the wreck on 30 September with sonar, a large object was according to the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter and many other news papers observed at the bow 1.4. What this large object really was is not mentioned in the Final Report 1997.

The writer assumes today that the Commission actually had found the visor at or in the vicinity of the bow (50-100 meters radius) on 2 October - it must have been the large object and that the ROV films of 2 October have later been edited not to show the visor. On 5 October the Commission stated that they had found other 'fragments' and scrap objects in the vicinity of (South, East of the wreck), but we still do not know exactly what the fragments were and where and how they were found relative to the true wreck position, which was announced several months later. It is possible that the announcements of 'fragments' were disinformation made to draw the attention away from the 'large object' at the bow.

The false Wreck Position

The mystery of the 'large object', the 'fragments' and other scrap must be connected with the statement of the Commission (Lehtola) on 2 October 1994 of, what was later revealed to be, a false position of the wreck 1.14. Evidently the two Finnish vessels 'Suunta' and 'Halli' must have reported the correct wreck position to Kari Lehtola, but why Lehtola announced a false position is still not clear. Lehtola has later said that he wanted to 'isolate' the wreck. From what? The visor? The 'large object'? The 'fragments'? A blue buoy was apparently anchored at the false wreck position. The 'fragments' and scrap were apparently found on 5 October - these were reported to be East or South of the wreck - the confusion was apparently due to the false wreck position. But the 'large object' at the bow disappeared from the media and public attention at this time. No large object is seen on any films. No large object is mentioned in the Final report (5).

Renewed filming 9 October - no Visor, no exploded Hole in the 'Estonia'

The Finnish vessel 'Tursas' filmed the wreck again on 9 October 1994 for no apparent reason - naturally at the correct wreck position - so the 'Tursas' was aware of the true wreck position! The ramp was closed and the area of the exploded hole filmed by the Czech diver in August 2000, 2.24 and 3.10, was stated to be undamaged. It was the 'Tursas' which also found - when searching for the visor - a 'steel plate', which should have indicated the course of the 'Estonia' before or after the accident. Where this steel plate was found has never been reported. The Estonian vessel 'EVA-200' was also out searching for the visor at this time.

Visor found 18 October

On 18 October the Commission stated that the Finnish vessel 'Tursas' had found the visor with echo sounder 'a mile West of the wreck' 1.14. The 'Tursas' also filmed the visor on the bottom by ROV. The delay to find the visor was blamed on bad weather and bad luck and that they had previously only searched East of the wreck and had found 'fragments' etc.. No actual position, lat./long., was given for the visor on 18 October.

Fragments and Objects found but not filmed

In the Final Report chapter 12.5 first line the Commission states that investigations of 'fragment' from the 'Estonia', found on 5 October, enabled to establish the port turn after the loss of the visor 'a mile West of the wreck' of the 'Estonia'. The port turn occurred one and a half mile West of the wreck and another half mile West from the visor. But nobody filmed the bottom West of the visor. The Commission lied! The 'fragments' - one and a half mile West of the wreck? - were reported by many newspapers, e.g. the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, SvD. SvD on 8 October:

"According a Finnish member of the Commission the 'Tursas' … found a large object very close to the route, which the 'Estonia' used to follow ... Toumo Karppinen: ...it must be very close to the 'Estonia'."

SvD on 9 October:

"...While searching with echo sounder in the area objects have been found on the sea floor along the route taken by the 'Estonia'. According Olof Forssberg, chairman of the Swedish delegation in the Commission, it is probably among other things the visor, which has been found. Kari Lehtola: We have found scrap, but it is probably from other parts of the ship. These parts tell us what course the 'Estonia' had."145

SvD on 10 October:

"Kari Lehtola dismisses the opinion of his colleague, Olof Forssberg that the bow visor already has been found during the searches by echo sounder. Kari Lehtola: Metallic parts have been found, but they are not large enough to be the bow visor."

Swedish news agency TT on 11 October:

"Kari Lehtola: No bow visor has been found until now but actually a large metallic object. From the working material of the Commission it is seen that the metallic part, apart from the scrap, was 5-7 x 10 meters and had the shape, which coincided with the visor. Later examinations, when the part had been filmed, showed that it 'was only a steel plate' ".

It was in the vicinity of the wreck.

From above press cuttings you get the impression that Forssberg thought that somebody had found the visor (at the wreck?), which Lehtola must have known but did not want to tell the media. It is unbelievable that no journalists inquired more about these 'fragments' that later disappear from the Estonia investigation - except that they should have proven the port turn one and a half mile West of the wreck after the loss of the visor. The film with the 'steel plate' has also disappeared. Naturally 'scrap' or steel plates do not fall off a ship, which has hardly listed - all is secured.

Visor salvaged by Swedish navy - at unknown position

The visor was salvaged by the Swedish navy in the middle of November 1994 and taken to Hangö, Finland. The Swedish navy ship HMS 'Furusund' had on 10-11 November again filmed the visor, so that a lifting hook could be made. No outside civilian contractor was asked to salvage the visor. The operation was a military, secret operation and no outsiders were invited. The visor was lifted by a Finnish crane vessel, the 'Nordica' under Swedish navy command.

As the visor probably was in the vicinity of the wreck, when it was lifted, the 'Nordica' must have been at the true wreck position at the salvage operation. But - as shown below - the Commission had put a (blue) buoy at the false position, so that the crew on the ship thought that they were 'a mile west of the wreck'. The 'Nordica' evidently could not tell the position, where it was (a mile West of the false wreck position?). The German expert group later tried to check the log book of the 'Nordica', when it salvaged the visor. The given position was not at the visor position - stated later - nor at the real wreck position. And part of the log book was written with pencil. The logbook of the 'Furusund' should also be checked - where was she, when she filmed the visor on 10-11 November?

The Wreck had disappeared

On 2-4 December the official dive examination took place. The dive barge 'Semi I' first went to the false wreck position, 1.14 and 1.16. If the blue buoy was still there is unclear; it probably was - and they had to search half a day until they found the wreck 2112 meters to Southwest. Who told the captain on the dive barge where to look is unclear. Maybe it was Stenström or Karppinen, who were on board.

The position of the visor was given in a message to the Commission dated 9 December 1994 from the Swedish navy (sic) (coastal artillery/defence forces). Actually the position was that of a red buoy, which had been anchored during the salvage operations. The position (of the buoy) was about N59°22',97, E21°39',33 ± 100 meters. This is also the official visor position in the Final report (5).

It is a very strange explanation, as the Swedish navy vessel HMS 'Furusund' had filmed the visor with ROV on 10-11 November and should then have announced the position - but then the 'Furusund' was probably above the wreck. When the red buoy was laid is not known. Or when it was removed.

The wreck was filmed for the first time on 2 October 1994 and Mr Lehtola told the media the position - N59°23'54.60" (N59°23.9'), E21°42'10.20" (E21°42.2') - which was not a nautical mile (1 852 meters) East of the visor but much more. It was the position, where they tried to dive first on 2 December 1994.

The position of the wreck was changed later - in December 1994 - by the Commission, to an 'as found' position at N59°22'56.13", E21°41'00.98", which is 1 560 meters East of the alleged visor position. This position is correct: in the centre of the dive prohibition zone of the wreck and later confirmed by many sonar pictures, etc. But what positions, which the Finnish vessels 'Suunta', 'Halli' and 'Tursas', the Swedish 'Furusund' and the Estonia 'EVA-200' had, when they found and filmed both wreck and visor, have never been stated but should be clear from their log books.

The Final Report (5) describes the finding of the wreck in chapter 8.1 as follows:

"The locating of the wreck of the ESTONIA' started on 29 September 1994, the day after the accident. The work was performed by the hydrographical survey vessel SUUNTA operated by the Finnish Maritime Administration. A side-scan sonar and a multibeam echo sounding system were used ... The wreck was spotted on 30 September, the location was confirmed and the position was marked with a buoy. ... The wreck is located at N59°22.9', O21°41'... ".

The above position is of course the 'as found' position - announced in December 1994 - and the Final Report states that it was marked with a buoy on 30 September. The latter was not true - no buoy was ever put on the real wreck position - the blue buoy was 2 100 meters to NE, the read buoy 1 560 meters to West. You wonder then, what was the reason to announce a false wreck position 1.14, if the real one was marked with a buoy?! And how could the dive barge 'Semi 1' go to a wrong position marked by a blue buoy, if the real position was marked with another buoy - color?

The Final report evidently does not mention the ' pyramid shaped object' seen on the sonar pictures taken on 30 September 1.4. How such a big object - even in another position - could have been undetected during several weeks is of course impossible.

Debris 100-350 m West of the Wreck

The Final report (5) thus does not say that the Commission stated a false wreck position for several months after the accident, and that the wreck, blue, buoy evidently was positioned there by the Finnish NMA. Further from chapter 8.1 in (5):

"The side scan sonograms also indicate that there was debris from the wreck in an area 100 -350 m west of the wreck".

This is another strange statement. The Commission never stated in October 1994 that the 'Suunta' found 'debris' - fragments - 100-350 meters West of the wreck using sonar.145 According to the Commission it was the 'Tursas' that found 'fragments' and scrap - apparently East or South of the (the false or correct?) wreck (position) on 5 October.

If it were the 'debris' found 100-350 West of the wreck that should have confirmed a port turn half a mile West of the visor is not clear. Regardless - according the Commission the 'Estonia' never passed the area 100-350 meters West of the (false or correct?) wreck (position) before or after the sinking 1.9. And what was the 'debris'?

Furthermore - chapter 8.3 in the Final report:

"The visor was found at N59°23,0', 021°39.2' about one nautical mile west of the wreck, on 18 October.".

This statement is not proven. Evidently it was the 'Tursas' that allegedly found the visor, but she did not announce any position at that time, and it is not clear if she was at sea at the time. It is not stated, if a red buoy was anchored at the visor, and by whom - 'Tursas'?. The visor position was only later established by the Swedish navy being that of a red buoy - see above. It is in fact extremely disturbing that the official position of the visor in a non-military accident is announced by the Swedish navy - which officially had nothing to do with neither the accident nor the its investigation - three months after the accident and two and a half months after 'finding' the visor.

With above manipulations - falsifications of History - of positions, etc., by four Finnish, one Swedish and one Estonian ships and the Swedish navy, the Commission managed to divide or split the visor from the wreck at the bottom of the sea.

Finnish denials - Kari Lehtola explains the Video Footage and why it is not edited and the Search of and the Position of the Bow Visor

Mr Kari Lehtola who announced the false wreck position and the finding of the 'steel plate', etc, etc, evidently denies all errors during the 'investigation': The big hole filmed by the Czechs does not exist. The visor position was not that of a red buoy, etc., etc. Mr Lehtola has no choice than denial.

From Helsingin Sanomat Wednesday 9 August 2000

The official commission has been accused of covering up evidence and withholding information on the real reasons of the disaster, in which more than 800 people were killed.

According to the claims, the video footage of the wreck had been edited so as not to reveal a large hole in the hull, supposedly caused by an explosion.

Another issue is the location of the bow door visor. The official reason given for the sinking was that the bow door visor had fallen off in heavy seas, eventually leading to the flooding of the car deck. The commission is said to have deceived the public when they said that the bow door visor had been found a nautical mile west of the location of the sunken ship. According to the revisionist theory, the visor was either attached to the ship all the time, or it was found right next to the hull.

It has been suggested that the entire search operation for the bow door visor was put on just for show.

The third claim is that the video footage of the sunken ship had been doctored. The commission supposedly edited out parts of the tape shot by units of Finland's Frontier Guard that they did not want to make public.

Kari Lehtola, the chairman of the Finnish side of the commission rejects all of these claims for several reasons.

He notes that in addition to the Frontier Guard, videotape of the wreck was taken by divers of the Finnish Environment Institute, and a team of Norwegian divers.

No Explosion

In their Tuesday statement, the Finnish commission members note that none of the footage contains anything that would suggest an explosion, a collision, or other event that would have punctured the hull.

Visor Location in Log Books

As for the location of the bow door visor, it was lifted to the surface by a Finnish multi-purpose icebreaker, with a Swedish naval vessel serving as a command ship. The location of the bow door visor was recorded in a number of ships' logs and sonar maps.

No Cover-up

Claims of video footage manipulation were refuted by Kari Lehtola, and the other Finnish members of the commission, Dr. Tuomo Karppinen and rear admiral Heino Iivonen. They point out that dozens of people, mainly members of the Finnish Frontier Guard, were involved in the operation. With so many people involved, no cover up would have succeeded.

The commission members dismiss as ridiculous all claims of a coverup conspiracy.

The shipyard which originally built the Estonia has advanced the theory that there was a hole on one side of the hull. Diver Gregg Bemis has also said that his team will be looking for holes possibly caused by an explosion.

"These traces of explosions have been found, because there are plenty of retired colonels around the world who will make such claims for money", Kari Lehtola said sarcastically.

Lehtola also notes that an organisation called the Independent Fact Group, comprising two Swedish consultants, has accused the commission of falsifying documents.

Perhaps the most bizarre claim is linked with the location of the bow door visor. In its report, the shipyard has suggested that a decoy operation to find the visor had to be staged to give time to dismantle a secret mine field across the Gulf of Finland.

The Estonia disaster also continues to tickle the imagination of the ordinary man on the street. The Accident Investigation Board continues to get tipoffs of various theories almost every week. Such theories are reportedly usually dreamed up in bars late at night.

Börje Stenström

It was probably Börje Stenström (an old Swedish navy commander) who decided to position the visor 1 560 meters West of the wreck. The Commission could not state that the visor was found East or South of the wreck, where they had been searching for two weeks. Stenström probably thought he could recreate an accident with a sharp port turn, resulting in the 'Estonia' sinking a mile East of the visor. The 'Herald of Free Enterprise', which capsized outside the port of Zeebrügge after having left port with an open bow door, also made a 90° turn to port out of the fairway before capsizing on its port side. But it took only one minute.

The Commission then spread rumours that the mate on the 'Mariella' had seen the hard port turn of the 'Estonia' at 01.17-01.20 hrs just before the Mayday (see page 251 in (20)), but it was disinformation. The second mate of the Mariella did not observe closely the 'Estonia' until after the Mayday at 01.24 hrs, - at 01.30 hrs - when the 'Estonia' was immobile in the water. According to the mate on the 'Mariella' 1.9 the only 'turn' - if it was a turn - took place just before the 'Estonia' sank at 01.36 hrs. Before that the 'Estonia' was immobile in the water. And how can an immobile ship turn?

Great Problems

The Commission thus had great problems with the positions of the wreck and the visor - no crew member testified about a port turn after the loss of the visor at 01.15 hrs. The time was of course wrong - the listing had taken place at 01.02 hrs and the port turn (see fig. 13.2 in the Final Report reproduced in 1.9) was physically impossible with the port rudder and propeller above water and when the speed was reduced, etc. But dr. Huss made a nice try to falsify the manoeuvre. He had no choice - to recreate the alleged sequence of events of the Commission a sharp port turn was absolutely necessary after the alleged loss of the visor (at the false visor position). He got assistance from Hans Rosengren.

All assisting vessels apparently saw the 'Estonia' immobile in the water, when the Mayday was sent at 01.24-01.30 hrs, in the vicinity where she sank - the true wreck position - and nobody saw the 'Estonia' at the false wreck position announced by Mr. Lehtola. And nobody saw the port turn.

Finnish shore radar at Utö island plotted all ships inclusive the 'Estonia' prior to the accident. But the plot from Utö disappeared. But it existed - it was sent at 16.45 hrs by fax from Utö to Finnish Coast Guard headquarters by fax and the Commission had a copy. The reason why the plot disappeared was simply that it showed that the 'Estonia' never passed the position, where the visor should allegedly have been lost.

The writer believes that the 'Estonia' sank due to leakage of the hull. The story about the visor at the front of the superstructure was just announced to cover up the real story and a probable crime. The visor could evidently not have fallen off 1 560 meters East of the wreck, and probably it did not fall off at all. And it did not pull open the ramp.

It is Disaster Investigation. You have now almost read all of it - only two chapters to go!


145 According Karppinen on 23 October 1999 at Glasgow 'fragment' (debris) were found a couple of hundred meters West of the (correct position of the) wreck 300 meters (?) North of the alleged course kept before the accident - the list occurred 2.26. It means that the debris must either has fallen off at 01.11-01.12 hr, when the ship was still upright (and 300 meters further North), or at 01.40-01.50 hrs, when the ship had >110 degrees list. What the 'debris' was is still not known. Probably the 'debris' did not exist at all.

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