Filmmakers trial for violation of Estonia wreck site starts in Sweden

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The Estonia ferry. Source: ERR

Two filmmakers went on trial in Sweden on Monday for violating the sanctity of the wreck of the Estonia ferry.

A film team sent a remote-operated submersible to the ship while filming a documentary that revealed a massive hole in the ship's hull, helping to cast doubt on the findings of an official investigation into the sinking.

The two Swedes - the documentary's director and a deep sea analyst - were on the ship when the vehicles were sent to the wreck in September 2019. They face fines or a prison sentence of up to two years.

The ferry Estonia, which was sailing from Tallinn to Stockholm, went down in the early hours of September 28, 1994, leaving only 137 survivors. The wreck lies in of international waters in the Baltic about 22 nautical miles (41 km) from Utö island, Finland. 

After deciding not to salvage the wreck after it sunk, Sweden, Estonia and Finland agreed in 1995 to designate it a final resting place and make it illegal to disturb the site. This is the first time the law will be applied.

However, the new discoveries published in the documentary sparked calls for a new probe into the cause of the disaster and in December Sweden announced plans to amend the law to allow a re-examination of the wreck.

The original inquiry concluded that 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, and the countries involved have been reluctant to re-examine the issue.

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

Survivors and relatives of those killed have fought for over two decades for a fuller investigation, with some claiming - even before the new hole was revealed - that the opening of the bow visor would not have caused the vessel to sink as quickly as it did.

Some have speculated that the ferry may have collided with another vessel, either a military ship or a submarine, or that an explosion caused the sinking.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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