New findings put question mark on official MS Estonia disaster report

Two independent discoveries strongly question the cause of the sinking of the MS Estonia and one of them – by a group of Swedish experts – does not rule out an explosion; the Estonian-Swedish ferry sank exactly 27 years ago, on September 28, 1994.

An independent Swedish research group called Fokus Estonia presented its study on the disaster on September 28. According to the study, the MS Estonia may have sunk after suffering an explosion that tore off the front visor of the ferry.

Experts in the group examined the recovered bow visor from MS Estonia – stored at the Muskö naval base near Stockholm – and claimed that a piece of the visor metal they tested showed detectable temperature traces, which had to reach at least 1,200 degrees Celsius (2,200 degrees Fahrenheit). This indicates an explosion, the group said.

Bow visor recovered from MS Estonia, stored at Muskö Naval Base in Sweden. Photo of Anneli Karlsson, shared under the Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license.

The bow visor was a key part of the official accident investigation from 1994 to 1997. The official disaster report, published in 1997, stated that the fatal event began when the door locks of The ferry’s bow ran aground due to the stress of the waves and the door separated from the rest of the ship, pulling the ramp behind it ajar. This allowed water to enter the vehicle decks, capsize and ultimately sink the ship.

The Fokus Estonia study now puts a strong question mark on the official report.

Fokus Estonia presenting his study on September 28, 2021 at the Stockholm Maritime Museum.

Fokus Estonia is led by former Swedish MEP Lars Ångström, while experts in the group include Anders Ulfvarson, Emeritus Professor of Marine Structural Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology, and Ida Westermann, Associate Professor in the Department of Science and materials engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The steel structure of the ferry is folded outwards

In a separate development, Swedish Radio published on its website on September 27 a clip (the radio called it a “classified film”), taken by the official accident investigation authorities in Sweden and the United Kingdom. ‘Estonia, which shows how pieces of the steel structure of the MS Estonia are bent outward from the hole in the hull of the ferry.

The images broadcast by radio, is the most graphic of the videos published to date.

Footage, broadcast by Swedish radio, shows how pieces of the steel structure of the MS Estonia are bent outward from the hole in the ferry’s hull. Screenshot of the sequence.

Simultaneously, a private Estonian-led expedition, initiated by relatives of those who died in the sinking of the MS Estonia, began to examine the wreckage of the sunken ferry.

A deadly shipwreck

The MS Estonia was a 16,000-ton, 157-meter-long (515.16 feet) cruise ferry, built in 1980 at the German Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg. He sailed as Viking Sally (1980-1990), Silja Star (1990-1991) and Wasa King (1991-1993), before being called Estonia. The ferry, at the time the largest Estonian-flagged vessel, began operating the Tallinn-Stockholm route in 1993 and was operated by the Swedish-Estonian shipping company Estline.

During a scheduled crossing from Tallinn to Stockholm on the night of September 28, 1994, the ferry sank in the Baltic Sea. The vessel disappeared from radar screens of other vessels at around 1:50 a.m. EEST (less than half an hour after the first Mayday call at 1:22 a.m. EEST) in international waters, approximately 22 nautical miles (41 kilometers) from Uto Island.

The wreck of the MS Estonia is located in international waters between Estonia, Finland and Sweden, approximately 22 nautical miles (41 kilometers) from the Finnish island of Utö, at a depth of 74 to 85 meters ( 243 to 279 feet) of water.

The vessel sank to a depth of 74 to 85 meters (243 to 279 feet) of water.

Of the 989 on board, only 138 were rescued alive (one of whom later died in hospital). As such, this is the second sinking of a European peacetime ship, after the RMS Titanic, and the deadliest peacetime sinking to have taken place in European waters, with 852 lives lost. . Most of the victims were Swedes (501), followed by Estonians (285).

Coverage: MS Estonia in 1994.

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