Justice ministry adviser Kalle Muuli, one of the few people in Estonia to so far have seen key dive footage of a large hole in the side of the wreck of the MS Estonia ferry, says that a new investigation should be held come what may.
"There is no doubt that this hole is there," Muuli, a former journalist, told ERR morning radio talk show "Vikerhommik" Tuesday, speaking after viewing film taken by a German dive team which shows a hole about four meters wide in the ferry's hull.
The findings have cast further doubt, in some quarters, on the official account of the 1994 sinking, namely that the bow visor sheared off in stormy conditions, causing water to enter vehicle decks.
Muuli, who is joining a chorus of calls for reopening investigations, including from former prime minister Andrus Ansip, also said that Estonia now has much better capacity to carry out such an investigation than it had in the 1990s, on a par with those of Sweden or Finland.
An investigation should include representatives of various stakeholders, as well as experts, to ensure impartiality, he added.
"The causes of major disasters have almost never been determined as the final truth. We are not sure that we can determine the cause of the hole, but in any case we must investigate it," Muuli went on, adding that whether the hole appeared at the same time as the accident or after the sinking would be one of the aspects which needed ascertaining.
Muuli said he had recommended this to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), who said Monday that a reopening of the investigation should follow the findings, and to justice minister Raivo Aeg (Isamaa).
The five-part documentary series started its broadcast in the nordic countries on Monday evening.
One of the claims made by Margus Kurm, a former prosecutor who in 2006 headed up a government report into the original 1998 investigation, was that water entering below the car decks, and the length of time the vessel remained buoyant between first alarms and its sinking (over half an hour) were consistent more with a hole than the official explanation of the shearing off of the bow visor. The latter would have cause a more rapid sinking, with water hitting the car decks square on rather than rising from below, he said.
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.
Editor: Andrew Whyte