Ferry wreck may be investigated again

  • 2000-09-07
  • Jaclyn M. Sindrich
TALLINN - American Gregg Bemis and his team's dive down to the wreckage of the ferry Estonia last week resulted in the discovery of a hole in the hull of the ship, contradicting the official report of the disaster.

The 71-year-old New Mexico businessman and German television producer Jutta Rebe, who shot a documentary of the week-long diving expedition, told a news conference in Hamburg, Germany, that they had filmed evidence of the new findings, including several bodies outside the wreck, according to an Associated Press report.

Now, Sweden says it may start another investigation of the Sept. 28, 1994 sinking, one of Europe's worst maritime disasters. First, though, the government says it wants to have a look at the film footage.

"The government should look at the material, then the different ministries and experts should give their opinion," Cami Buzago, spokeswoman for the Justice Ministry, told AP. "We may start a new investigation."

The official 1997 report of an Estonian-Swedish-Finnish commission blamed a defective bow door that peeled off in stormy seas, allowing water to rush into the car deck below as the mammoth ship surged ahead, causing it to capsize within minutes. But there has been constant speculation about the possibility of a hole or a possible explosion aboard.

Yet the Estonian government has said the report is final, and no new investigation will be opened. An agreement signed by Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Lithuania, Russia and Britain declared the site off limits, the grave of 758 bodies.

Priit Poiklik, spokesman for the Estonian government, said this treaty is international law, and will be treated as such. "There is no need to discuss it. We don't know anything new. Everything that has been said by Bemis has only been said."

Furthermore, if the question of reopening the investigation does arise, Estonia is not in a passive position, he reminded. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has full contact with the Swedish and Finnish governments on the matter and equal power in making any decisions regarding the ferry.

Bemis' dive was supported by the majority of the Estonian public. Many, including Memento Mare, an organization devoted to the victims' memory, said they were open to any further searches for causes of the disaster.