Sweden announced its willingness to allow a new examination of the wreck of the ship “Estonia” in the Baltic Sea, which sank 26 years ago.
The decision followed the disclosure of data that cast doubt on the official investigation’s conclusions into one of the worst drowning incidents of the twentieth century.
A documentary titled “Estonia: The Discovery That Changes Everything” was filmed by a miniature submarine despite the prohibition against approaching the wreck and was shown in September, which revealed that the hull of the ship at the bottom of the sea has a gap of 4 meters, the existence of which was unknown before today.
On the night of 27-28 September 1994, “Estonia,” a 155-meter ship, sank while it was between Tallinn and Stockholm with 989 people on board, most of them Swedes and Estonians.
It took less than half an hour, and the tragic accident killed 852 passengers and crew, most of them sleeping.
An international commission of inquiry concluded in 1997 that the sinking was due to a malfunction in the retractable arc-lock system that allowed water to invade the cars’ roof.
However, this story remained the subject of doubt, as other hypotheses emerged, one of which suggested that the ship had collided with a submarine, and again indicated the possibility that an explosion took place on board, while a third Russian operation to punish the newly independent Estonia was not ruled out.
A quarter of a century ago, survivors and relatives of the victims had been calling for a new, more in-depth investigation.
However, to this day, Finland, Estonia, and especially Sweden have been reluctant to reconsider the disaster’s causes.
Since 1995, the shipwreck site has become a “marine cemetery” protected by an agreement between the three countries, and any diving operations towards the wreck, which is located at a depth of 85 meters and still contains many bodies, is prohibited.
Before the French judiciary
Swedish Interior Minister Michael Damberg said in a press conference that there is no intention to “abolish the law relating to the sea cemetery,” but that he saw a need to study ways to “adapt it to allow the inspections that the Accident Investigation Office wants to implement.”
He added that the Swedish government believes that it can lift the ban in mid-2021, stressing that its approach enjoys strong support in Parliament. Robots will be used to carry out diving operations, and human beings will not implement them.
The decision comes in response to a request from the Swedish Accident Investigation Office, which was also announced Friday, to conduct further investigations.
In early October, Estonian Prime Minister Gori Ratas called for a new investigation “as soon as possible” to be conducted into the sinking.
The head of the Swedish Accident Investigation Office, John Albert, explained that nothing in the new preliminary assessments allows skepticism at this stage of the results of previous official investigations.
He stressed Friday that “the discoveries aim to explore as much as possible of the causes of the gap in the hull of the ship,” the sinking ship.
Experts who cast their opinion in the documentary released in September suggested that only a massive force from outside could cause a gap of four meters.
Since the ship sank, the victims’ families have been granted compensation, but no criminal liability has been held.
Last year, the French judiciary rejected requests for compensation from the survivors and relatives of the German company’s victims that built the ship and the French licensing authority.
A court held that Swedish law applied to the case given where the sinking occurred. The victims had not provided evidence of “a gross or intentional error attributable to Boro Veritas” and the shipyard in Mayer-Vervet.
As for the director of the documentary, Henrik Iverson, he and another member of his team must respond before the Swedish courts regarding the marine reserve violation.