NewsMS Estonia sinking case closed again amid controversy over possible criminal act

MS Estonia sinking case closed again amid controversy over possible criminal act

The case of the MS Estonia ferry disaster is closed - Prosecutor Karolina Wieslander reported.
The case of the MS Estonia ferry disaster is closed - Prosecutor Karolina Wieslander reported.
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons

12:11 PM EST, February 15, 2024

The application to revisit the investigations, earlier closed in the last century, was put forward in 2020 due to emerging doubts that the disaster might have been a criminal act. The prosecution regarded these doubts as new developments to revisit the case.

Initially, investigators had concluded that the passenger-vehicle ferry, which had embarked from Tallinn on September 27th, 1994, sank because a portion of the ship became dislodged during a storm. New suspicions arose after a documentary contested this conclusion, suggesting the sinking was related to a whopping 13ft hole in the vessel's hull. The film implied that the ferry could have been transporting weapons besides passengers and vehicles.

The accident narrative initially appeared to be dramatic but plausible. The bow gates of the ship were locked around 1 PM ET in Tallinn as 989 passengers boarded. The MS Estonia operated under the Estonian Steamship Company, typically transporting passengers to Stockholm every two days.

The night of September 27th to 28th witnessed severe weather conditions, with strong winds and high waves, causing water to flood onto the deck. At 7.20 PM ET, the first alarm was sounded for the crew and passengers. The prospects for rescue were grim, with life rafts only managing to save 138 people.

Sweden ends investigation into the Estonia disaster

Soon after the disaster, conspiracy theories emerged. The initial decision by Swedish authorities not to recover the wreckage from the ocean floor, a mere 262 feet deep, appeared puzzling and raised suspicions.

Despite repetitive pleas from the victims' families to recover the bodies, they were overlooked. Instead, an inviolability declaration to respect the wreck's final resting place was issued, endorsed by all Baltic states except Germany.

Many individuals, including German journalist Jutta Rabe and Piotr Barasiński, husband of one of the victims, expressed interest in the wreck. Despite the ban, they repeatedly attempted to reach the wreckage. Unlawful dives led to an astonishing discovery - a 13ft hole in the ship's hull.

As the speculation grew, it was increasingly suggested that Sweden used ferries from Estonia for smuggling weapons from Russia to Western Europe in the early '90s. Meanwhile, the original investigation into potential crimes related to the Estonia sinking was halted in 1997. Although it was appealed, the Attorney General decided against reviving proceedings in 1999 and eventually closed the case in 2000.

The case reopened 16 years later following the release of a documentary. Swedish, Finnish, and Estonian authorities decided to revisit the matter. The Estonian accident investigation body agreed to act on the new information, supported by Sweden and Finland.

"Based on the actions of the investigative bodies, there is no indication that a collision with a ship or floating object or an explosion on the bow occurred. There's also nothing else to suspect that a crime was committed. Therefore, preliminary investigations will not start, and the case will be closed," Swedish prosecutor Karolina Wieslander informed on Thursday.

This decision brings a halt to speculation about transporting weapons aboard the Estonia. It also refutes the theory suggesting that an explosion of one of the allegedly smuggled missiles caused the disaster.

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