Ansip: MS Estonia hole discovery cause enough for new sinking investigation

Andrus Ansip (Reform).
Andrus Ansip (Reform). Source: Heini Heinlaid / ERR

Former prime minster and current MEP Andrus Ansip (Reform), whose administration oversaw a 2006 report on the official version of the sinking of the MS Estonia, told ERR that that report made no mention of a collision with a submarine as a possible cause of the disaster.

At the same time, the discovery of a four-meter-wide hole in the sunken vessel's hull is reason enough to reexamine the causes of the 1994 sinking, with arguments about not disturbing the resting site which claimed over 850 lives not overly compelling, Ansip said.

"It (the discovery of the hole – ed.) is, comes, of course, as a surprise to me, and I believe that there are not many people who had suspected that there may be another hole in the vessel," Ansip told ERR radio channel Vikerraadio Monday.

"Yes, I have read that Margus Kurm (who headed up the 2006 report – ed.) claims that the Estonia collided with a Swedish submarine, but I do not think that Margus Kurm has any evidence of such a collision with a submarine at all and, secondly, that this submarine was without doubt a Swedish one," he went on.

"Nevertheless, there is a the hole is in the ship, and we don't know how it got there; maybe it was a collision with a submarine. We cannot say at this time whose submarine it may have been, if it was a submarine that collided. Apparently, experts will already be able to present various other scenarios of what might have happened by looking at the shape of the hole, so this version of the submarine is by no means the only possible explanation.

Margus Kurm, who led the Estonian government's ferry disaster investigative committee 2005-2009 told ETV's "Pealtnägija", in an interview due to air Wednesday evening, that newly filmed footage of the shipwreck show the vessel most likely sank after a collision with a submarine.

The hole is around four meters wide.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said that a further underwater investigation must be conducted after the footage, filmed by a German diving team, came to light.

Ansip: Graves can be exhumed in criminal investigations

Ansip also said that maintaining the sanctity of the grave site apply in this case, citing the analogy of a criminal investigation, where a body which was buried may be exhumed for further investigation, meaning a "violation" of the grave which should also happen in the Estonia's case.

"Perhaps the truth is the most important," Ansip said.

A report filed in 2006 reviewed the original disaster report from 1998, which, Ansip noted, had not mentioned a submarine collision as a possible explanation or provide evidence along those lines.

The same report, led by Margus Kurm, did question how water had entered the stricken vessel from below the car decks, if the cause had been as per the official report, a broken bow visor which allowed seawater to enter from the same level as the car decks.

Ansip noted these questions had not been answered in full detail as yet and that experts had had different opinions on why this had happened. However: "... this first and only report on the sinking of the ferry Estonia is evidence-based, and there is no reason to question it," Ansip said.

"It should now be clarified how the hole was formed and what the role of this hole was in the sinking of the ferry. This is a completely new piece of information and, in my opinion, a very important fact, requiring the re-examination of the causes of the Estonia's loss."

The MS Estonia sank in stormy seas on the night of September 28, 1994, while en route from Tallinn to Stockholm. The disaster is the largest to occur in the Baltic in peacetime, and the second-largest peacetime European maritime disaster in terms of death toll after the Titanic, and led to the deaths of 852 people, including the vessel's captain. There were 137 survivors.

The shipwreck was investigated by a joint committee formed by the governments of Estonia, Finland and Sweden in 1994-1997, and by a government commission led by the Estonian prosecutor's office in 2005-2009.

In 1995, Estonia, Finland and Sweden signed a gravesite peace agreement to protect the shipwreck, which prohibits diving near the wreck.

However, since the wreck is in international waters, divers from those countries who have not signed up to the agreement are not bound by it as such; the recent dive which led to the footage showing the large hole in the Estonia was involved a team using a vessel sailing under the German flag.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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