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Swedish authorities considering MS Estonia investigation

Screenshot from the recent documentary, showing the hole in the MS Estonia's starboard side.
Screenshot from the recent documentary, showing the hole in the MS Estonia's starboard side. Source: ERR

A spokesperson for Sweden's Accident Investigation Authority (SHK) says his organization is investigating information recently made public that the wreck of the MS Estonia, which sank in 1994, has a hole in it starboard side.

"We are investigating the possible consequences of the new information," Jonas Bäckstrand, the agency's deputy director, told Swedish daily Aftonbladet (link in Swedish).

The foreign ministers of Sweden, Finland and Estonia announced Monday the possibility of a new, joint investigation into the sinking Monday, with Estonia taking the lead role.

This followed the screening of a documentary on Swedish television this week which presents film footage it says shows a large hole in the wreck's hull, which has caused speculation over the official cause of the 1994 disaster, namely that the bow visor was sheared off in stormy weather, allowing sea water to rapidly enter vehicle decks.

Former prosecutor in Estonia and the man who led a 2006 report on the original investigation, Margus Kurm, says that the hole was caused by a Swedish submarine striking the vessel amidships, a claim rejected by members of a previous international committee.

Kurm said that the hole could not have been formed as the stricken vessel struck the sea bed, or later on, and that his explanation was consistent with water entering the hull from the bottom up, rather than at car deck-level.

Swedish government spokespersons say they want competent authorities, including the accident investigation board, to assess whether a new investigation is needed first, however.

"We are reviewing the new information that has come to light and considering the consequences it may have. But we have not yet made any decision that we can announce," Jonas Bäckstrand said. 

"What has been released in the film is new information and, of course, we are looking at this to decide whether further action is needed," the added, noting that he would ask corresponding agencies in other countries to do the same.

Bäckstrand declined to answer whether he had been instructed by the government in Sweden to look into the new information, though confirmed he was acting in close cooperation with it.

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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