MS Estonia inquiry committee members reject submarine collision claims

Jaan Metsaveer, one of the MS Estonia international enquiry members.
Jaan Metsaveer, one of the MS Estonia international enquiry members. Source: ERR

Two members of the international committee of inquiry into the 1994 sinking of the MS Estonia have rejected claims of a collision with a submarine, saying that this would put a much greater strain on credulity than the official explanation and noting that no survivors had spoken of experiencing any large strike on the ferry's hull in the time leading up to its sinking.

As reported on ERR News, Margus Kurm, the former state prosecutor who headed up a government investigation into the sinking in 2005-2009, says that new footage in a documentary shown on Swedish television starting this week clearly show a hole in the side of the vessel's hull, adding that this was likely caused by a submarine colliding with the ferry while she was afloat.

This caused the sinking, Kurm says, and not a shearing-off of the bow visor, as per the official report concluded in 1998.

However, Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech emeritus professor Jaan Metsaveer, who was an inquiry committee member, strongly doubts this explanation

Talking to Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" Tuesday, Metsaveer said that Margus Kurm interpreted the laws of physics in a way that suited him, in order to back up his submarine theory, adding that the hole was likely caused post-sinking, as there are rocky outcrops underneath the Baltic seabed's sand.

"In my opinion, [the hole] was made by rocks as the ship sank. Geologists say there is a bedrock, topped with a layer of soft sand through, through which outcrops protrude."

Metsaveer also said that Ockham's razor need not be violated, given this explanation was simpler than one involving a submarine, still less one whose nationality (Swedish) was known, according to Kurm.

Priit Männik, also a committee of inquiry member and a former deputy director of the police central investigation bureau, said that determining how the hole was formed ought to be simple too, noting that no survivors spoke of any strike from outside the ferry by a large object like a submarine.

The majority of the 137 survivors of the disaster were questioned about their experiences, Männik noted.

It would also have altered the mechanics of how the ship went down, he said, and that in fact if the visor had remained intact, even if water had entered via a breach in the side of the vessel, it would not have sunk (presumably due to bulkhead construction – ed.).

Jaan Metsaveer said that he did not believe that videos taken of the Estonia's wreck soon after the sinking had been manipulated, at least to hide anything illicit, another claim of Kurm's, and in any case they displayed the environs of the broken visor.

"The shots really showed that the [vehicle] ramp was open. The water went came from there, there was no other option. We didn't start thinking much about any other options," he said, noting that possibilities of raising the wreck – which has remained on the seabed ever since – were also being explored.

Those filming the wreck at that stage had been instructed to avoid showing dead bodies in the frame, which also accounted for apparent discrepancies in the footage, taken at various different times, Priit Männik noted.

The MS Estonia sank 26 years ago, on the night of September 28, 1994, sailing from Tallinn to Stockholm. The sinking is the largest maritime disaster in peacetime in the Baltic Sea, killing 852 people from 17 countries, and second-largest peacetime maritime disaster, so far as European vessels go, after the Titanic.

The shipwreck, which lies in about 100 meters of water south of the Turku archipelago, was investigated by a joint committee formed by the governments of Estonia, Finland and Sweden between 1994 and 1997 and by a government commission headed by the Public Prosecutor's Office in 2005-2009. 


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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