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Collision with a submarine? New clues in ferry sinking that killed 852 people

Undated file photo of the Estonian ferry 'Estonia' taken in Stockholm archipelago. Photo: Sakari Saari AP Photo/TT

PortandTerminal.com, September 29, 2020

Did an Estonian ferry hit a submarine before it sank killing 852 people? | New wreck investigation finds 13-foot hole in hull caused by ‘massive external force’

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – A total of 852 people drowned when the passenger and car ferry MS Estonia sank in Finnish waters in the early hours of September 28, 1994, while en route from Tallinn to Stockholm. It remains Europe’s worst peacetime shipping disaster.

In 1997, investigators concluded the disaster was caused by the bow door of the ship being wrenched open in heavy seas, allowing water to gush into the car deck. That’s been the official explanation up until now. But that explanation has always been disputed by many survivors, experts and the families of the victims.

The salvaged Estonia bow visor (2015)
The salvaged Estonia bow visor (2015)

Survivors and relatives of those killed have fought for more than two decades for a fuller investigation, with some claiming that the opening of the bow visor would not have caused the vessel to sink as quickly as it did.

“I believe the truth is something other than what people have been told until now,” says survivor Carl Eric Reintamm.

One of the capsized lifeboats from the MS Estonia pictured on September 28th 1994.
One of the capsized lifeboats from the MS Estonia pictured on September 28th 1994.
Photo: Leif R Jansson /TT

A stunning discovery has suggested that they may have been right all along.

The makers of the five-part documentary series, which was released for streaming on Monday, have claimed to have found a hitherto unrecorded 13-foot hole in the hull of the MS Estonia.

According to information presented in the documentary, the hole is four metres high (13-feet) and has previously been partly hidden towards the sea bed.

The makers of the Discovery Networks documentary Estonia: The Find That Changes Everything discovered the hole when they explored the wreckage with a remote-controlled submarine.

Experts told the film-makers that only a massive external force would be strong enough to cause the rupture, raising many questions about what really happened that night.

What could have caused the massive hole?

Numerous theories about the cause of the sinking have circulated for years, none of them proven as of yet.

These include a collision with another vessel, either a military ship or a submarine, as well as theories that organised crime gangs were involved or that an explosion went off on the ship.

One Estonian government official closely associated with the investigation now has little doubt as to what sank the ferry.

Man in white shirt and dark jacket. Margus Kurm
Margus Kurm on ETV’s “Pealtnägija”. Source: ERR

Margus Kurm, former state prosecutor and head of the Estonian government’s investigative committee looking into the sinking of ferry MS Estonia in 2005-2009, said in an interview with ETV’s “Pealtnägija” that new scenes of the shipwreck show the ship most likely sank after a collision with a submarine.

“[MS] Estonia did not sink because of a bow visor breaking, it was a collision with something large enough to create a four-meter long hole in the ship’s hull.”

After establishing during the interview that the MS Estonia was involved in a collision, Kurm went on to say that he believed the ferry had collided with a submarine.

“Considering that the tear is below the water line and considering no one has ever mentioned that another ship could have sunk with Estonia and none of the survivors have said they saw a ship close to Estonia – the most likely cause is Estonia collided with a submarine.”

Lending support to Kurm’s conclusion is witness testimony. Survivors described hearing a loud bang and one survivor said he saw a large white object in the water next to the ferry.

Official reaction to the new information

Until now the countries involved, including Estonia, Sweden and Finland, have proven extremely reluctant to re-examine the causes of the disaster.

In a joint statement though on Monday, Estonian, Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers announced they would “assess the new information” presented in the new television documentary.

With reporting by The Guardian

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