Expert skeptical about diving to ferry wreck

  • 2000-07-06
STOCKHOLM (BNS) - Head of the Finnish catastrophe investigation
center Kari Lehtola does not believe that U.S. divers seeking to
probe the 1994 sinking of the ferry Estonia will be allowed access to
the wreck.

A group of American divers has applied to launch an investigation of
the catastrophe at the start of August, Swedish news agency TT

"The Swedish, Estonian and Finnish governments are protecting
inviolacy of the Estonia as a gravesite. Diving there with the
purpose of examination requires a decision on reopening
investigation," Lehtola told the Finnish news agency STT.

No valid arguments have so far been brought forward to reassess the
cause of the catastrophe, he said.

"The Finnish government at least has very clearly stated that the
report of the international [investigation] commission can be
depended on and that no facts have come to light to shake its
reliability," Lehtola said.

The American, Gregg Bemis Jr., who wants to dive with his team to the
ferry's wreck, has put a proposal of cooperation to Mona Sahlin,
member of the Swedish government dealing with questions pertaining to
the ferry's sinking. Bemis hopes the government will support his
investigation both financially and with information.

Sahlin, who is currently on vacation, has so far not replied to Bemis's letter.

Bemis maintains his hands are not tied by the agreement on inviolacy
of the sinking site, as the ship went down in international waters.
He's also promised that the group's aim is not to look for or in any
way disturb the bodies of victims.

The American, who at the end of May took part in an international
seminar on the sinking of the Estonia, said many questions relating
to the catastrophe are still without answers. The seminar was
organized by AgnEf, a Swedish group for investigating the shipwreck.

According to Lehtola's information, participants in the seminar
called for a new investigation.

The appeal has been sent to the governments of Sweden, Estonia and
Finland, Swedish political parties, and many embassies.

The ferry Estonia sank in a Baltic storm in September 1994 while en
route from Tallinn to Stockholm, claiming 852 lives.