The water must then have spread through open watertight doors on the tank top, so that the initial stability, GoM, was reduced to nil due to free water surfaces inside the ship hull at 01.02 hrs (three, four compartments filled with about 600 tons of water).
Alternatively - if the leak was a fracture in the shell plate just above the bilge strake, the fracture could have developed forward and aft so that the leak and water inflow spread into several dry compartments, including the starboard heeling tank.
Then - at 01.02 hrs - the ship heeled suddenly >30 degrees in the rough weather, but stabilized itself at 15 degrees heel as expected (the new equilibrium due to the water on the tank top) during many minutes, when several hundreds of crew and passengers evacuated the inside ship accommodation to the open decks 7 and 8. The ship was then rolling severely around 15 degrees list position due to reduced GoM and this enabled passengers to get out - it was possible to walk on the decks, when the ship rolled to port and the angle of list was close to 0 degree. When it rolled to starboard the list was >30-40 degrees and you could not get out - you had to wait, when the ship rolled back to port, then you could proceed. Then more water came in below the waterline, the ship listed more, but it did not capsize (it was stable all the time but with a list) and then it sank on the stern hitting bottom at 01.33 hrs. (The clock on the bridge stopped at 01.35 hrs, thus after that time the ship could not move further). Only 137 persons survived. Mayday was for unexplained reasons not sent until 01.22-01.24 hrs - more than 20 minutes after the first, sudden listing.
The 'Estonia' was plotted on radar and visually seen by the watchkeeping officer of the 'Mariella' between 01.30 and 01.36 hrs (when the ship sank) and proper records were made. The Commission ignored (censored or falsified) these records.
Only a heavy Leakage below the Waterline could have caused the Sinking
The proximate cause of the accident was thus a heavy leakage below waterline at 00.40-00.45 hrs and not a fully open ramp at 01.15 hrs due to faulty visor having dropped off due to weak locks, etc. Evidence supporting this suggestion has been presented in 1999. By checking the underwater video films taken 1994 but not made public until 1998, it is evident that the bow ramp 2,5 meter above the waterline was never pulled open by the visor! It may have been leaking, but no major amounts of water came in there.
The ramp locks and hooks are undamaged!
The ramp may not even have been locked but held in place by ropes and wires! Further evidence is that the visor could not have fallen off, when the ship was upright - it was then kept in place by the lifting hydraulic pistons resting against a strong deck beam at fr. 159, which cannot have been broken (and there is no proof that it was broken). Thus, the visor must either have been attached to the vessel, when it sank, and the official visor position 1 560 meter west of the wreck is incorrect, or the visor fell off at least a fairly long time after the sudden listing occurred.
Even if it seems unbelievable, there are many facts today that suggest that Swedish navy divers assisted with the removal of the visor from the bow below water after the sinking.
One possibility is that the starboard stabilizer fin assembly - its foundation - was damaged at sea due to bad welding during the installation in February 1994 or that the sewage tanks in the bottom were corroded. The resulting opening - 0,2 m² - was sufficient to allow 50-100 m3/min to leak into and to sink the ship. The German report issued in June 2000 even suggests that the hull shell was corroded in another location and that the double bottom was already flooded upon departure. It is also possible that the bilge plate fractured in way of the sauna/pool compartment on deck no. 0. It was a 'wet' space with a lot of corrosion. The pool itself was of strange design with its pipes inside the double bottom! But it could also have been sabotage!
Contributing factors to the accident were then:
(i) much too many watertight doors - total 22 - in the 12 watertight bulkheads (with fewer doors the ship would have had better inherent safety),
For unknown reasons the official accident investigators could not admit all these rather stupid matters making the ship unseaworthy (since 1980).
Instead, the head of the Finnish investigation team Mr Kari Lehtola, immediately (30 September 1994) informed the media a completely false wreck position 2 100 m North-East of the true wreck position, which only became known to this writer in June 2000.
According to Lehtola he 'isolated' the wreck! Why this was necessary has never been explained, but as it is now clear that the investigation team told media a false, 'isolated' wreck position, it is probable that the visor position 1560 metres East of the wreck was also false! The suggestion is supported by the fact that sonar pictures of the bottom released 2000 shows the visor at the bow of the ship!
Thus, the ship started to leak at ca 00.50-00.55 hrs and listed suddenly at 01.02 hrs with about 600 tons of water on the tanktop. Then the ship turned about 240° to port during 22 minutes, while it filled with water and sank without capsizing. The visor was lost at 01.16 hrs (assuming the official visor position is true - apparently the visor position is false and in consequence the visor was attached to the vessel when it sank) but the ramp never opened and very little water thus entered the superstructure. During 00.55-01.30 hrs about 3 000 tons of water entered the ship below the water line - into the hull - not sufficient to sink it, but when deck 4 aft came under water at say 01.20 hrs, the superstructure started to flood from above and this caused the ship to sink stern first (see below) quicly. The engines stopped at about 01.12 hrs.
Other information (already available in 1994 but then suppressed by the Commission - a plot of all ships movements around the Estonia at the accident made by Finnish shore radar has disappeared in 1994, but there are many indications that it existed) is that the ship - heading towards Sandhamn - slowed down much earlier and turned to North and listed and stopped close to the wreck position, but then the official visor position one mile West of the wreck is not possible. The plot was in fact developed by the writer in 1996 based on available information at that time and has only been slightly modified recently. The grey area in the plot is the no-diving zone around the wreck. It is not permitted by Estonia, Finnish, Swedish, Danish and English citizens to dive and check the wreck, e.g. that the underwater hull starboard side is damaged.
Strangely enough the UK government forbids its citizens to dive on the Estonia, while there are 1 000's of wrecks around the British Isles where you are free to dive.
Prevention by proper Safety Measures
The accident and its consequences could have been prevented by proper safety measures: