Swedish expert continues speculation on ferry sinking

  • 2000-06-08
TALLINN (BNS) - Swedish technical expert Johan Ridderstolpe maintains there must be a large hole in the hull of the ferry Estonia which allowed divers investigating the wreck to enter the car deck.

Ridderstolpe addressed a seminar May 30 organized in Stockholm by AgnEf, a Swedish group for investigating the sinking of the ferry nearly six years ago, and demonstrated underwater video footage received from Finnish members of the international investigating commission showing divers' attempts to get onto the car deck via the bow visor's ramp, the daily Eesti Paevaleht reported.

This turned out to be impossible, as the ramp was separated from the hull by a chink about 40 centimeters wide which the divers could not get through.They then descended on the starboard side of the wreck which faces the bottom. Here the camera stopped, but continued a few minutes later on the car deck.

"I'm pretty sure the divers entered the car deck through a hole on the starboard side of the Estonia's bow, as they could not have moved fast enough to get in from somewhere else," Ridderstolpe said.

Rolf Soerman, a Swedish survivor, said he saw from the life raft a large dark spot on the bow of the sinking ship. "It seemed to me to be a hole," he said.

Soerman said the investigating commission falsified and partly discarded his evidence.

"My evidence was classified as a state secret, so that I myself had no longer access to it," he said. "I'm not 100 percent convinced it was a hole I saw, as it was very dark, but I'm sure it was much darker than the rest of the hull and to my mind it looked like a hole."

The seminar also heard thorough reports from British underwater explosion experts Michael Fellows and Brian Braidwood, who showed video footage of damage near the ferry's bow visor.

"There is no doubt that explosions took place in the bow," Fellows said. "Experts need no more proof, as everything is plain to see in the video films and photographs. This sort of damage is typical of that caused by explosions."

Scientists and experts participating in the seminar agreed that the final report of the official investigating commission is a falsification whose aim is to conceal the truth from the public.

"We'll find out the truth sooner or later," said Gregg F. Bemis Jr., chairman of the U.S. society of ship designers and engineers.

The Estonia went down in a storm off the Finnish coast on Sept. 28, 1994, killing 852 in one of the worst maritime disasters. Since the accident, speculation has been rife about why the ship sank, including theories of explosions and sabotage.

The investigating commission appointed by the governments of Estonia, Finland and Sweden entirely ruled out a bomb explosion.