THE DIVING INVESTIGATION 01.-04.12.94
From 1st to 4th December 1994 the wreck was examined by divers from Rockwater A/S Stavanger and by ROVs from Smit Tak, Rotterdam (parent company of Rockwater A/S) apparently contracted by the Swedish Sjöfarts-verket. The divers were working out of diving bells from the diving support vessel SEMI I. Börje Stenström, member of the Swedish part and head of the technical group, was said to have been the only member of the JAIC on board. In addition, there were on board Arne Valgma, head of the Estonian Ship Safety Division of the E.N.M.B., Ulf Hobro from Nordström & Thulin, the responsible director Johan Fransson and the operations manager Åke Vide from Sjöfartsverket, a number of Swedish criminal police officers, one English salvage expert and the Swedish diving expert Gustav Hanuliak, both on behalf of Sjöfartsverket, as well as some persons unidentified so far.
Note: It is doubtful whether Börje Stenström was the only JAIC representative on board as it would be against the general attitude of the Finns demonstrated before and after the diving investigation, namely to be represented by their own people whenever relevant parts of the investigation were carried out. Since the diving investigation of the wreck was the most relevant part of the investigation so far, it has to be assumed that Finland was represented by Tuomo Karppinen, as testified by Arne Valgma who attended on board.
This assumption is shared by the then chairman of the JAIC, Andi Meister, in his book "The Unfinished Logbook", where he states that the Estonian participant Arne Valgma shared his monitor cabin with Tuomo Karppinen from the Finnish part of JAIC. According to Andi Meister this was subsequently denied by the Finns who - for understandable reasons - did not want to take over part of the responsibility for the occurrences on board of the diving platform SEMI 1 such as the wilful manipulation and deletion of essential evidence in which Mr. Karppinen most likely participated.
The main purpose of the diving operation, which was paid by the Swedish Government, was to establish:
(a) Could the ESTONIA be lifted up as a whole?
(b) How many bodies could be recovered without lifting the vessel, and
(c) would it be possible to cover the ESTONIA with stones/concrete?
The results are outlined in two official reports available to the public, viz.
- Condition Survey of the vessel ESTONIA for the Swedish National Maritime Administration by Rockwater A/S, Stavanger (attached as Enclosure 27.409), and
- Survey Report M.V. ESTONIA dated 08.12.94 by Smit Tak B.V., Rotterdam (attached as Enclosure 27.410).
In addition, the divers had to inspect and record on video tapes the foreship area as well as the navigation bridge on behalf of the JAIC and according to the instructions of Börje Stenström and/or Tuomo Karppinen.
According to the Rockwater Report to Sjöfartsverket the underwater work was documented on 19 video tapes which were handed over to Sjöfartsverket/Swedish criminal police before they left the diving platform by helicopter. Allegedly Rockwater kept only those videos on which the safety of the divers was documented, in case health problems should appear, which was not the case. Those videos allegedly were destroyed one week after the last diver entered the bell.
At a subsequent meeting in Helsinki on 02.10.96 between the JAIC and the Rockwater representatives Ray Honour, managing director / Dave Cawson, project manager / Terry Jost, diver (one of the two divers having examined the bridge) the following was established:
»Whatever the divers did was documented in detail by Rockwater in three different logbooks. It is possible to check each individual episode by comparing the entries in the logbooks with the video logs respectively with the videos themselves. It can be excluded that sequences have been removed from the videos. On some tapes date and times are recorded, on others not because the input had to be made in the operation room which was not done with all tapes. The conditions were very difficult, the visibility was poor, each movement caused a cloud of settled-down sediments.«
The diving operation was performed by four teams of three divers who worked around the clock from two diving bells hanging next to the wreck. The first diver of the team remained in the bell, the other two proceeded to the designated area where one did the work according to instructions from the supervisor in the operation room while the other secured him by checking his umbilical, etc. The divers worked in diving suits with helmets, which were connected by the said umbilical containing all the necessary supply and communication lines to the diving bell respectively to the diving platform. On top of the helmets one searchlight and one, probably two, video cameras were mounted. The diver received his instructions through two earphones - one in each ear - and spoke into one microphone. On the video tapes available to the public only the voice of the supervisor into one of the earphones and the voice of the diver are audible. Only on some occasions does it become evident that the diver gets additional respectively other instructions when he reacts differently or replies differently, this being particularly obvious when he quickly turns his head away from areas which the public should not see as will be explained on the following pages. It is common practice - according to the diving expert Brian Braidwood - that divers carry two different earphones during an operation like the one under consider-ation here.
The following pictures show two of the Rockwater divers with diving suit, helmets and umbilical.
Due to being 100% supplied and disposed off via the umbilical these divers do not create air bubbles in the water.
The video films were produced in the PAL format by the cameras on the helmets of the divers.
From these films the following are available to this 'Group of Experts':
|6||B40a||Bulbous bow with audio||0.14.19|
|7||B40b||ROV hull survey and bow area||2.56.03|
|8||B40c||Divers survey mainly bow||3.00.00|
|9||B40d||Nav bridge survey||3.03.57|
|10||B40e||Around the bow and then on nav bridge||2.41.29|
|11||ROV19/06/96||Good quality all over, but cut and various dates||2.03.49|
|12||ROV Sprint 3/12/94 = other|
|13||ROV mudline no date||Stern, prop, hull survey, bow thruster, etc.||1.53.44|
|18||ROV 9/10/94-Sprint 3/12/94-diver||Good quality all sorts sprint 3/12/94 diver|
|19||B40c RW/SEMi1/EST/ D/013007||Divers deck no1 & bow investigation||3.00.00|
|20||B40b Sprint/94/Estonia/ 01001-006||ROV Hull survey||2.56.00|
Also these films were handed over to the video experts of Disengage/UK for analysis and evaluation - see Subchapter 34.6.
One of the results was that - except videos 11 and 18 - all other video films - although made in the PAL format - had been copied by a PAL/SECAM machine without a converter in between. This results in poor copies, which are much too light and unclear - a fact which makes a proper evaluation of the video material very difficult, sometimes impossible. In addition, relevant parts had been cut out of these videos as will also be demonstrated in Subchapter 34.6.
These videos were and still are being copied in Sweden by a private company called "FORSVARSMEDIA" which is said to work exclusively for the Ministry of Defence, and as such has security clearance. Reportedly Börje Stenström had decided before any copying was done which parts should be hidden from the public and cut out. These concern footage showing the hull above the starboard mudline including the starboard stabiliser and certain areas of the foreship and the bodies inside the wreck and on the bridge.
While the video sequences showing undesired parts of the wreck were deleted - which fact has led to the discrepancies in the timing as shown by Disengage (see Subchapter 34.6) - the bodies have been made invisible by light spots, also the three "official" bodies on the bridge. Even though it is stated in the Rockwater Report, among other things: »The bodies on the bridge showed signs of decomposition, but were also undamaged.«, and the Sjöfartsverket Report added: »On the bridge, where many windows were missing, one body had been attacked by fish.«, the bodies on the bridge were allegedly not identified by their uniforms. This was explained by Börje Stenström, as follows:
»The divers did not know any of the victims personally. So, how could they identify them?«
Note: By the stripes on their uniforms, as it had initially been assumed that all victims were officers.
This is most annoying, because the question who was on the bridge during the final minutes is of importance, in particular, whether the master was there.
From the distress communication it is known that the watch officer - 2nd mate Tormi Ainsalu - the 3rd mate Andres Tammes and most probably also chief officer Juhan Herma - had been on the bridge until 01.30 hours - the end of the 'Mayday' communication - see Subchapter 22.1 - when the vessel was practically on the side. Of these three Ainsalu and Tammes were seen by Sillaste to leave the bridge, while Herma apparently remained inside. According to 3rd engineer Margus Treu, he was asked by 4th mate Kaimar Kikas at a rather late stage after the diesel generators had already shut down, whether he could pump freshwater overboard from the starboard tanks. Thus it could be assumed that the 4th mate also stayed in the bridge. The third body should be the master according to the "evidence" of watch A.B. Silver Linde, which in all probability is wrong because he had not been back to the bridge before, at or after 01.00 hours - see Subchapter 21.2.2. Nevertheless, the crew survivors were very certain from the beginning that Captain Andresson had died on the bridge, which is not surprising because it has to be assumed with certainty that at least one of the surviving officers/engineers had been on the bridge after the big heel and seen what had happened.
In summary this would explain the three bodies as found by the divers, viz.
1) close to the door leading out to the aft on port side, across the door leading to the inside stairway.
2) inside the chart room without further details.
3) in the starboard wing below the broken loose flagbox.
The above is revealed from the voice communication between two divers and the supervisors on board the SEMI 1 according to video tapes B40c and B40d which are available and from the Finnish report of the JAIC, page 131. In addition, more information about the bodies became publicly known partly through the Andi Meister book "The Unfinished Logbook" and partly through the Estonian media. These are:
- the body at the aft port door was wearing a brown or red/brown suit.
- the body underneath the flagbox in the starboard bridge wing had a tattoo on his right hand.
Reportedly neither Captain Andresson nor Juhan Herma nor Kaimar Kikas had a tattoo on their right hand and certainly none of them was wearing a brown or red/brown suit. So, who are the three bodies on the bridge and where does this information come from?
On the other hand, the detailed knowledge of the Estonians about the condition of the bodies inside the bridge indicates that they had been there with own divers. Furthermore, neither the descriptions above nor the few words of the divers audible on the videos indicate that any of these bodies was badly decomposed and/or had been attacked by fish.
The explanation for this discrepancy was discovered by Disengage when analysing the available footage frame by frame. They found out that the first diver inspecting the bridge - Dave Mawston - before entering the port bridge wing through the lower aft window, which was already broken, cleared away the glass remains and mashwire and then pulled out a body by the hair to the outside where he let it go. This body was only approximately half a body because the lower half was missing, possibly due to having been attacked by fish or by being badly decomposed? Whatever the cause for this terrible injury might have been, this body was neither found near the port aft door nor in the chartroom nor in the starboard wing below a flagbox; it was removed from the bridge before the first diver entered the bridge and before the aforementioned three bodies were found. Consequently there had been a fourth body on the bridge, the existence of which is not mentioned by the Swedish participants. The evaluation of the so-called "Mudline video", showing the starboard hull - and bottom area in way of the mudline, revealed the existence of a fifth body just outside the starboard bridge wing which is also nowhere mentioned. - See Subchapter 34.6. Apparently the Swedes in the JAIC were also hiding these bodies from the only Estonian participant of the diving investigation, Arne Valgma, who was said to have been sleeping during the first inspection of the bridge, because he had been told that nothing special would happen during the hours ahead. He was interviewed on the subject by Spiegel TV, but the interview is not available.
The question remains: Why didn't the Swedes onboard the SEMI 1 arrange for proper identification of the bodies on the bridge and why do they keep secret the fourth and the fifth body?
There were several other incidents respectively observations during the diving survey to which attention has to be drawn, viz.:
(1) The torn and broken open underside of the starboard bridge wing.
(2) The inspection of particular cabins on the 6th deck.
(3) The inspection of the forward part of the 1st deck and the 0-deck.
(4) The ROV "inspection" of the car deck and the consequences.
(5) The activities of other divers with other equipment inside the car deck.
(6) The condition of the rails and the preventer wires of the bow ramp.
(7) The angle iron in the housing of the port bow ramp actuator.
(8) The condition of the starboard stern ramp.
None of all this is mentioned in the JAIC Report.
as to (1): The torn and broken open underside of the port bridge wing.
The area in question and the extent of this unusual damage at an unusual location shall be illustrated by a number video images. The first ones were made from footage produced already on 02.10.94, i.e. 4 days after the casualty, and the last ones at the diving investigation between 01-04.12.94. The arrow on the picture below points to the area in question.
No 2, No 3
No 4, No 5
The images on the previous pages are explained as follows:
No. 1 - The arrow points to the area in question - the underside of the port bridge wing.
No. 2 - was made on 02.10.94 and shows the aft part of the port bridge wing looking from aft. The vertical stanchion, initially located vertically in line with the aft plating of the wing, is visibly bent forward (arrow 1) together with adjacent plating - arrow 2. The paint at the (port) outside of the stanchion is completely scored off.
No. 3 - made on 02.10.94 and shows the same area from below with the stanchion and plating pushed forward and a pulled down square looking like an access hatch which, however, had not been there on delivery of the ship according to the drawings.
No. 4 - made during the diving investigation on 03.12.94 and shows the plating of the underside of the port bridge wing now completely torn off. The arrow points to the window of the owners' cabin.
No. 5 - made on 03./04.12.94 shows the empty space between the bottom of the bridge and the initial underside plating which is now missing.
It is quite obvious that part of the damage did exist already on 02.10.94, i.e. 4 days after the casualty when the first (official) ROV went down and that the damage was enlarged during the time until the diving investigation of 01.-04.12.94. The damage is not mentioned in either the Smit-Tak/Rockwater Reports nor in the Sjöfartsverket or JAIC Reports and has also not been discussed by the media.
This damage cannot be attributed to the casualty and also does not look as having been caused by fire or explosion. It is however obvious that there is heavy impact damage at the aft lower part of the bulkhead which together with the vertical stanchion supporting the wing was pushed forward. It therefore has to be assumed that this was caused by interested parties searching for something particular hidden inside the void space between the bridge floor and wing underside, prior to and again after 02.10.94.
as to (2): The inspection of particular cabins on deck 6.
According to video B40a and the video tape log page - attached as Enclosure 27.411 - the diver entered the forward part of deck 6 and tried to enter cabin 6132, which had been occupied by a member of the Stockholm Police ST-Section, but failed, then tried the next cabin 6135 but failed again and then 6134 also without success. The diver returned to the outside for tools and moved in again, broke open cabin 6132 - found a suitcase without name tag and left it behind. He then worked his way to cabin 6230 which was the 2nd cabin from port side of the four luxury cabins in the fore part of deck 6 overlooking the foreship. According to the statement of purser Andres Vihmar of 15.05.96 - see Enclosure 14.195 - this cabin had been assigned to the master of the second crew, Captain Avo Piht. In the alleyway in front of this cabin the diver found a body. The diver, obviously receiving instructions through his second earphone not audible on the available video, broke up the door and headed straight for a suitcase, which was open but - according to the diver - apparently nothing was missing (how could he know?) and the suitcase had a label with the name Alexander Vorodin. The diver carried the suitcase out of the accommodation and it was apparently hoisted up to the diving platform. The diver subsequently broke open or tried to break open the cabins in the vicinity of cabin 6230, all of which had been occupied by members of the ST-Section of the Stockholm Police. The owner of the suitcase, Alexander Vorodin, had been on board together with his uncle and nephew, and all three survived. According to the first and only statement of Alexander Vorodin and to the 2nd statement of his uncle, Vasili Krjutjkov, they had been in cabin 6320. In his 1st statement Vasili Krjutjkov testified, however, that they had been in cabin 6230 - Enclosure 14.196 - which was indirectly confirmed by his young nephew Vassili Vorodin - see his statement Enclosure 184.108.40.2061 - who testified that he had been thrown out of his bed to the floor by the big heel and thereafter they had looked out of the window and seen the vessel heeling heavily to starboard. As can be seen from the drawing below showing the forepart of deck 6 - cabin 6320 is an inner cabin without windows and with only 2 beds (1 upper/1 lower) which are arranged athwartships, thus no one would be thrown out these beds if the vessel suddenly heeled to starboard. Cabin 6230, however, has 2 upper and 2 lower beds which are arranged in longitudinal direction, i.e. if the vessel suddenly heeled to starboard somebody in the port side beds could be thrown to the floor as it happened to Vassili Vorodin. Furthermore this cabin has two windows overlooking the foreship.
Consequently the Vorodins had been in cabin 6230 which is also confirmed by the presence of the suitcase of Alexander Vorodin in this cabin. The question is why did Andres Vihmar testify to the police that it was the cabin of Captain Avo Piht where the suitcase of Alexander Vorodin was found, who had the reputation of being a weapons smuggler, and was therefore so interesting to the criminal police of Stockholm. A transcript with the voice communication during the above explained examinations is attached as Enclosure 27.412.
as to (3): The inspection of the forward part of the 1st deck and the 0-deck.
According to video tape log RW/SEMiI/EST/D/011 page 1 - Enclosure 27.411.1 - the diver S. Jessop entered the forward part of the 1st deck through an opening cut by the divers into the shell plating. He examined the port side cabins, established that the only accessible watertight door was closed (all doors close from port to starboard, thus it has to be assumed that the door had closed by gravity due to the starboard list after the hydraulic pressure had slackened sometime after the sinking) and then - according to the video log proceeded at 14.54 hours towards the spiral stairway, which only leads to the sauna and swimming pool compartments on 0-deck, where damage to the starboard shell plating is assumed. Without any notation in between the log continues after 1 hour and 6 minutes without any explanation as to what the diver did during this time. Thereafter the diver left the wreck through the outside opening. The lower part of the video log page No. 1 - Enclosure 27.411.1 - shows the respective entries. Apparently the times 14.54 and 16.00 have been manipula- ted and the page was cut between these figures, something which had been written in between has been taken out and both parts of the page copied together.
The part taken away concerns the activity of the diver between 14.54 and 16.00 in the area at the end of the spiral stairway which is the 0-deck with sauna- and swimming-pool compartments. It is obvious that the JAIC did not desire that the inspection results were made public.
as to (4): The ROV has not been inside the car deck and the consequences.
In spite of five attempts and although the supervisor says so, the ROV cannot have entered the car deck through the bow ramp opening, because
(a) the video sequences do not confirm this, and
(b) the video depth shown on the ROV display - 81 m - is too deep for the car deck.
Nevertheless the ROV moves between pallets with cement bags and other objects looking like cargo apparently lying on the sea bottom. As it is highly unlikely that this intact looking cargo originates from other vessels, it must have come from ESTONIA even though the bow ramp and both stern ramps are closed or almost closed. Although the starboard stern ramp was certainly more open at some stage when the vessel was still afloat and severely heeled, it is very difficult to assume that cement bags on pallets should have fallen off some truck or trailer and then out through the open ramp and exactly next to the position where the vessel finally settled down. The respective video is B40b from 03.12.1994. Another open question which demands clarification. See also Subchapter 34.6.
as to (5): Divers with other equipment were active inside the car deck.
On video B40c the "official" diver was working on top of the bow ramp looking into the car deck when suddenly a frogman type diver appeared in the beam of his searchlight who rapidly tried to get away by swimming backwards, however, was picked-up by the camera.
On another occasion air bubbles are coming up from the car deck, although the "official" divers do not produce air bubbles and allegedly were not working inside the car deck at all. On a further occasion lights can be seen inside the car deck, although the "official" divers have not been there.
On another occasion the supervisor said: "They are getting their diver(s) back." or "We have to wait until they get their divers back." On another occasion the supervisor said to the diver: "We have to stay on the outside, the inside is no good for us" obviously meaning the car deck.
All this indicates that another diving operation by other divers went on simultaneously, longer or shorter, than the official one and it is indeed the question what these divers were doing inside the car deck and why their activity was and still is kept secret?
as to (6): The condition of the rails and the preventer wires of the bow ramp.
The bow ramp had rails on both sides with three sections and a movable part at the forward end on each side. The movable parts extended forward when the ramp was open and were secured in position by splints put through holes at the movable and fixed parts. The image below shows the ramp in open position.
Before the ramp was closed the splints were pulled out, the moveable parts were turned backwards and secured again by the splints. The image below shows the closed bow ramp from the inside.
Upon evaluation of the video tapes by Disengage parts of the bow ramp rails were identified on the sea bottom and the images shown below and overleaf were produced.
The two images above made by ROV on 2.10.94 already clearly and without doubt prove that it is the forward section with movable part of the starboard bow ramp rail which is resting on the bottom of the sea.
A reconstruction of the ROV track commencing at the stern of the wreck revealed that these rail parts are located about 250 m to the south of the stern and about 80 m to the south-east of an area where the video was cut three times, each time for about 1 minute.
For further details see Subchapter 29.2 - The Bow Area.
The following images show the remains of the clearly cut off 2nd and 3rd stanchions from forward of the port bow ramp rail. As can be seen the stanchion was located next to the port upper mating box for the ramp securing bolt.
It is obvious that this stanchion did not break off but was mechanically cut off. The image is part of the diver video tape B40c of 03.12.94 which proves that the bow ramp rail on both sides had disappeared. As it is difficult to believe that the bow ramp should have had no rails without anyone - including the Swedish safety inspectors - noting it in Tallinn, the rails must have been cut off subsequently, i.e. after departure. For further details see Subchapter 29.2.
The preventer wires attached at both sides of the bow ramp and the car deck opening were installed to prevent the bow ramp's falling down onto the forepeak deck in case of the failure of the ramp actuators, i.e. wires, shakles, lugs were dimensioned to catch the falling ramp without breaking.
The arrows on the picture above point to the shackles by which the starboard preventer wire is connected to vessel and bow ramp. The system on the port side is identical.
The evaluation of the available video footage by Disengage reveals that
(a) both preventer wires were still attached by shackles to the lugs at the car deck opening;
(b) the port wire cannot be seen in full length, it disappears behind the bow ramp;
(c) the starboard wire, however, can be seen in full length as shown on the image below.
The shackle with bolt is obviously attached to the lug of the wire in undamaged condition.
(d) Both lugs at the ramp are intact and undamaged. The port lug is just slightly bent inwards as is the upper mating pocket for the securing bolt.
For further details see Subchapter 29.2. Also here the question arises who unshackled the preventer wire and put the bolt back into the shackle and for what purpose and at what time? As the above image was taken from the ROV video from 09.10.94 it is obvious that the explained condition existed almost two months before the official divers went down.
as to (7) The angle iron in the housing of the port bow ramp actuator.
The image overleaf from the diver video B40c shows the lower part of the opening of the housing of the port bow ramp actuator. The broken lug of the actuator - by which it had been connected to the bow ramp - can be seen. The actuator is in almost retracted condition.
The following image was produced from footage made when the diver looked into the actuator opening more from the side. The image was enhanced by Disengage with special equipment and it revealed that some strong steel piece was sticking behind the actuator. Further analysis of this footage revealed that this was an angle iron (arrow 1) which had obviously at some stage been pressed into the adjacent bulkhead plating (arrow 2) with the bulkhead port in between unaffected (arrow 3).
It was at first assumed that this angle iron had been placed there to sabotage the complete closing of the bow ramp, however on second thought it is more likely that this steel piece had been placed there deliberately by the crew to prevent the actuator fastening from hooking at the edge of the front bulkhead because the ramp had been considerably hanging down with its port side due to the broken port hinges which had destroyed the initial alignment of the actuator fastenings in the vessel and at the ramp.
As a matter of fact - as will be demonstrated in Chapter 29 - the bow ramp was detached from the vessel at the port outer and inner hinges. Therefore the ramp was hanging down at the port side with respective effect on the port actuator which was hooking at and rubbing against the bulkhead in way of the lower edge of the opening. To smoothen these contacts the angle iron was probably installed.
This was another temporary repair of the damaged bow ramp - in addition to the steel put underneath the bolt of the port outer hinge - done without the consent of the Classification Society.
as to (8) The condition of the starboard stern ramp.
The image below shows the inside of the upper starboard stern ramp to be partly open. It was taken from the ROV video dated 09.10.94. The arrow on the picture further down points to the area in question. This fact will be explained in detail in Subchapter 29.7.
Neither the eight items explained above nor the discovery of the fourth and fifth body on/near the bridge is mentioned in the Report of the JAIC.
Another result of the diving investigation was the apparent fact that the entire starboard bilge strake area including the adjacent shell plating pointing up to car deck level was accessible and could thus be inspected by divers and ROVs, which was done. The results, as far as they are possible to achieve from the severely censored "Mudline video", are outlined in Subchapter 29.5. The drawing below demonstrate the condition of the wreck. They were taken from the Smit Tak Survey Report dated 08.12.94 and attached as Enclosure 27.410.
Finally the parts officially recovered from the wreck on behalf of the JAIC have to be mentioned:
After having measured the bolt of the Atlantic lock Börje Stenström threw it back into the sea, although according to his own scenario it was one of the most important pieces of evidence. This will be explained in Subchapter 29.2.
Also the sensor plate of the Atlantic lock and the electric cables of the sensors were cut off by one diver, but instead of putting them into the net together with the other objects brought to the surface, the diver threw both to the sea bottom apparently upon instruction of the supervisor.
The other objects recovered by the divers upon instructions of the police or other organisations are unknown to the public.