Testimonies by Passengers and Off-Duty Crew Members
Reports from Deck 1 - Passenger Area
Deck 1 is located below the car deck, which is the bulkhead deck, and is - forward to aft - divided into watertight compartments:
- forepeak tank
- bow thruster room
- water ballast tank
- 6 compartments passenger cabins
- 2 compartments engine control room (ECR) workshop, etc., main engine casing
- 4 compartments provision/store area.
For details reference is made to the drawing showing the forward part of 0-deck and 1st deck which is attached to the end of this Subchapter as well as to the GA plan.
The passenger accommodation was accessible by 2 personal lifts and 6 stairways inside the centre casing. The forward lift and the stairway in the 4th compartment continued down to 0-deck level (swimming pool, saunas), the other lift ended on 1st deck level. Both lifts had only non-watertight doors to starboard with 100 mm sills on the car deck, while the doors on 1st deck opened to port only and on 0-deck to both sides.
The store area was accessible by 3 large lifts and 1 stairway. The first store lift had a door to starboard, while the second one had doors to both sides. Both store lifts had no sills at all and led down to the 1st deck in way of the engine room. At the aft end of the centre casing a container lift of 10' x 8' x 8' was installed which led down to the 1st deck only. The doors opened to the aft and also had no sill.
The sliding doors on car deck level leading from car deck into the centre casing above the 1st deck had sills of 130 mm above the 100 mm sill running around the entire centre casing just interrupted in way of the 2 store lifts, i.e. the sills of the sliding doors had a total height of 230 mm. None of the lift doors were watertight. All 4 lifts went up to the 8th deck.
As the 1st deck was located below the bulkhead deck the compartments were separated by watertight bulkheads which, in way of the passenger accommodations, were only interrupted by the longitudinal alleyway. The openings could be closed by watertight doors operated hydraulically either from a panel on the bridge or manually on site.
The doors were sliding doors, closing from port to starboard. The hydraulic station for these doors was located about midships in the centre casing on 2nd car deck (B-deck) level. Before and during the closing of the doors yellow flashlights went on.
The passenger accommodation was divided into 6 watertight compartments of which the first compartment was located directly behind the empty ballast water tank No. 2 and above the three freshwater tanks 4A, 4B, 5 which were all said to be full with in total 291 ts.
The 2nd and 3rd compartments were directly above the sauna/ swimming pool area, the 4th compartment was at starboard side above the sewage plant belong to the engine room and at port side above 2 conference rooms. The 5th and 6th compartments were located above the heeling tanks, two centre heavy fuel tanks and the stabiliser fin spaces. The void spaces in between were connected to the engine room area.
In the following statements of survivors from the 1st deck shall be quoted commencing with the survivors in the cabins in the most forward compartment - the 1st compartment, followed by the 2nd compartment and so on.
The 1st compartment - located above 3 full freshwater tanks and behind 1 empty water ballast tank.
- most forward cabin in the centre line directly behind the water ballast tanks with the door opening to aft;
- was in cabin which he had to leave because water was already entering the cabin;
- heard immediately before casualty that waves were beating very hard against the vessel, then silence, then the vessel fell on the side.
- woke up from loud rushing noise and saw from the angle at which his coat was hanging on the wall that the vessel was heeling about 45°, ran up and saw water on car deck.
Note: This cabin is located at starboard outside. The door opens athwart-ships to port. There is only one cabin between his and the cabin of Jaan Stern which is located in the centre line. Both cabins are in the same alleyway. Since both men left their cabins after the starboard heel and at this time water was entering the cabin of Jaan Stern already above the 60 mm high sill, it has to be assumed that there must have been water also outside of the cabin door of Neemi Künno Kalk.
The 2nd compartment - located above the sauna compartment.
- was in her cabin before the casualty;
- some time before the casualty heard several hard bangs and something beating against something which she considered to be strange and dangerous, therefore she decided to go up to deck 7 and wait to see what would happen;
- after she had been sometime on deck 7 she heard a heavy bang and subsequently the vessel heeled to starboard.
Note: It is uncertain when she went up. Possibly the "something beating against something" could have been the 'sledge-hammer noises' heard by Carl Övberg in his cabin starboard side in the 4th compartment. He had heard these noises about 15-20 minutes before the heel. At this time most probably there was no water on the 1st deck.
The 3rd compartment- located above the swimming pool compartment.
- went to bed at 23.00-23.30 hours (probably Swedish time);
- woke up when shortly afterwards he suddenly heard 2 strong, strange noises, scraping noises which came from below as if the vessel proceeded through ice (which he had heard many times before);
- he realised that it could not be ice but had to be something different below water and jumped out of the bed while the vessel heeled about 10° to starboard;
- he also realised that there was something definitely wrong and that he had to get up to the lifeboat deck as soon as possible
- he left his cabin at once and found a lot of water in the alleyway;
- when he passed the shower/WC area on his way into the stairway he saw water about 0.4 m high which was rushing along the longitudinal wall with speed;
- he rushed up the stairs while the ferry heeled more over and reached the open deck 7 where he met two officers in white shirts with epaulettes on the shoulders with unknown numbers of stripes, whom he told about the water in deck 1 whereafter one of the officers send the other one downstairs;
Note: It has only been possible to talk to this key witness directly in November 1999 and the respective statement is attached as Enclosure 18.104.22.1689.1.
It has to be assumed that the two officers he met were the 2nd officer Peeter Kannuussaar and the 3rd officer Andres Tammes. It has to be further assumed that the ferry had already made the big heel to starboard and was back to 10° starboard heel when Reintamm woke up because he does not recall the big heel.
The 4th compartment- located starboard side above two conference rooms and port side above the forward sewage treatment installation.
- at about 22.30 hours (Swedish time) down to the cabin and to bed;
- he woke up suddenly from the strong noise of rushing water which he could hear from both sides, but loudest from starboard side; these noises alarmed him;
- in addition he heard quite strong metallic banging noises which definitely had not been there before; he sat up in bed and put his feet on the floor, since the bed was athwartships he was facing the door looking aft;
- he lit a cigarette and listened intently to the strange and frightening noise scenario;
- after a little while he suddenly heard the starting up noise of an hydraulic pump or pumps followed by the clicking of valves and then the typical noise created by an hydraulic system under load;
- simultaneously he heard the banging of sledge hammers;
- the noises came probably from forward;
- the hydraulic under load noise faded away and came back again whilst the sledge-hammer banging noise more or less continued. Both the hydraulic noise and the sledge-hammer banging noise continued for ca. 10-15 minutes whilst the other banging noises, then heard already for some 20-25 minutes, also continued;
- the hydraulic noise and the sledge-hammer noise stopped with a short, sharp metallic crash which gave him the impression that something heavy, metallic had broken;
- after a 'silence' of 30-40 seconds the next really extreme crash followed in connection with an abrupt stopping of the ferry which was so 'sudden' that he was thrown against the front wall of his bed;
it was a short, sharp intense crash as if the ship had struck against something;
- he jumped out of his bed and put his clothes on very quickly when he realised that all the engine noises had stopped and that the ferry was now making much softer pitch movements;this must have been at about 01.00 hours.
- he rushed out of his cabin, turned right towards the stairway, around the aft part of it, through the open WT-door (watertight) towards aft, but turned around after some meters and headed forward, by now the vessel had started making sideway movements (rolling), the door at the port side of the stairway was either open or missing, and he rushed through it;
- he turned right up the stairs when his coat got caught at the beginning of the right handrail, he turned round to his right and looked over his right shoulder out through the door opening into the alleyway;
- he saw 2 goosenecks next to the cabin wall, as indicated on the drawing on the pages 517/518;
- out of these goosenecks water was streaming under great pressure, he also saw water penetrating the door forward of these goosenecks in the 3rd compartment which belonged to a cleaning room;
- he saw the water running over the floors;
- he had freed his jacket and he rushed up the stairs;
- when he was about half way up to the car deck the vessel heeled suddenly and abruptly more than 45°, probably 50° or 60°;
Note: The reason for Övberg estimating this large angle of heel is the fact that he was standing on the wall, as shown by the drawing below to his statement and on the following paragraph.
- the ferry quickly came back to almost upright position but then heeled about 10° to 15° to starboard and thereafter slowly heeled in steps further to starboard, which each rolling movement a little bit more. Övberg continued upwards, i.e. when the ferry rolled backed to almost upright condition, he rushed upwards as far and as fast as he could and when the ferry subsequently heeled wide to starboard, he stood waiting and holding fast to the rails of the stairs, etc., his way up is demonstrated by a further drawing above;
- he reached the 7th deck and managed to get out through the open door whereafter he saw at once the lights of one ferry at port side;
Note: This means that the vessel was then already on a south-easterly heading. - there was one light shining from the port bridge wing, otherwise the bridge was dark. Note: This is a key statement which gives a great deal of explanation because Carl Övberg could be questioned in detail and because he was very co-operative. There can be no doubt that many of the survivors could give considerably more details if they would have been asked properly by the JAIC. Another unforgivable mistake of the JAIC who had the authority and the means of carrying out a detailed interrogation of all the survivors, however, did not make use of it.
- he was awakened by a scraping noise and a hard bang - the scraping noise continued;
- he got up and dressed and left the cabin when the vessel heeled;
- saw water when he passed the car deck possibly already below in front of his cabin.
Note: His cabin was adjacent to the cabin of Carl Övberg who rushed up before the heel and saw water. Since Holger Wachtmeister followed Övberg after the heel, he must certainly have seen even more water when he left his cabin and subsequently entered the door to the stairway, which he indicated in an addendum (attached to his statement).
- "At first I heard screaming and then I saw water running in the alleyway. I heard no engine noises when we were pulling us up the stairs. The lights were normal until we reached the railing on deck 7, when it began to blink."
- "Whilst I was asleep I heard a heavier bang which I had heard before already, but not so heavy. After that bang the vessel suddenly heeled to starboard. All 4 of us woke up, grabbed our clothes and jumped into the alleyway, where we noted water."
Statement made at Tallinn on 29.09.94 - Enclosure 22.214.171.1241.1:
- "We were one of the last to enter the car deck with our Mercedes bus. We were all sleeping in our cabin when we woke up from heavy metallic bangs. Due to these noises it was impossible to hear any engine noises. After the mentioned metallic bangs the vessel heeled to starboard."
- was in bed half sleeping, became alarmed when the vessel did not roll evenly any more and suddenly heeled to starboard so that he fell against the wall;
- had to jump through a water wall to reach the stairway leading from 1st deck upwards;
- saw water penetrating the car deck doors.
Note: Raba left his cabin shortly after the heel when the vessel had righted up and then took a list of 10°/15° which was increasing when Övberg was in the stairway between the 1st deck and car deck during the wide heel and Wachtmeister was about to leave his cabin, i.e. both left before Raba. It is thus logical that Raba met much more water than they had which was rushing around the corner and against him.
The 5th compartment - located directly above the heeling tanks. At starboard side there were 13 cabins and at port side there were the WC/showers for ladies and gents.
Martin had told the police that his cabin no. was 1027, however, according to the drawing he made showing his way up, it was cabin no. 1028. The drawing is attached to his statement, which can be summarized as follows: - He went to bed at 23.00-23.30 hours, noticed heavy movements of the vessel and lots of cracking noises. He also heard that something was frequently heavily beating against the vessel;
- About 10-15 minutes before the accident became a fact, i.e. before the big heel, he woke up from the heavy movements of the vessel, heard a scraping noise, i.e. it was cracking and scraping very close to him on the deck above him. This was (for him) the introduction to the developments which ended in the catastrophe;
- A little later Martin felt that the noises were connected to the shaking of the vessel, and then the vessel began to heel noticeably. He and his bed moved upwards while the others in their beds on the opposite side of the cabin moved downwards. He is unable to explain this in more detail. Simultaneously the strong scraping noise was being continuously heard and then Jan Gustavsson said: "Now we have run aground." So clear and distinct was this noise;
Note: Since noises associated with "running aground" cannot originate from above but must have come from below, this was probably a wrong description or memory of Martin Nilsson. Below him were the starboard heeling tank and the pocket of the starboard stabiliser.
- He left the cabin and jumped up one flight of stairs to the next deck (car deck), where he noted several centimetres of water on the floor;
- When he had reached the boat deck he observed two crew members talking into walkie-talkies;
- A search light was shining from vessel's side into the water; the lights went out/on several times;
- He saw the lights of a ferry far away.
- was in this cabin with Jasmina Waidinger, but has mixed up port/ starboard, forward/aft and decks 6/7;
- vessel was pitching and rolling, at each pitch movement something was beating against the hull - "as if someone were hammering with a big stone".
Note: This is probably what Carl Övberg has identified as "sledge-hammer banging".
- suddenly the vessel heeled - what he believes was to port - ca. 20°-30° but continued to heel deeper;
- he jumped into the alleyway and rushed upwards;
- when he passed the car deck he saw water penetrating the car deck doors, on the floor there were ca. 10 cm of water;
- he heard crashing and squeaking noises and a car alarm from the car deck.
- went to bed ca. 23.30 hours (Swedish time) and changed beds shortly afterwards with Daniel Svensson;
- both heard strange noises "as if the sea was striking against the vessel's bow";
- they discussed the situation when Daniel's alarm clock rang at midnight;
- she dozed for some minutes - she believes ca. 5 - when there was a "hard bang" from the car deck;
- at the same time the vessel heeled over to starboard and Daniel Svensson rushed out of the cabin while she dressed and followed;
- when she jumped out of her cabin door she saw water in the alleyway which trickled from somewhere;
- she estimates the time from hearing the "hard bang" to being washed overboard when the vessel was on the side at about 1/2 hour.
Statement made on 04.10.94 - Enclosure 126.96.36.1997:
- went to the cabin ca. 23.15 - 23.20 hours (Swedish time);
- at ca. 23.30 hours went to another cabin to ask for pills, noticed nothing abnormal then;
- when she was in her bed she heard banging noises which she and Daniel Svensson did not consider to be normal; - they discussed this and she thought of the stabilisers, how they might function, etc. when she heard a rushing sound, which was low in its intensity and which she had not heard before;
- it seemed to her that the rushing sound came from above and appeared to her like water running rather slowly;
- they heard the sound of Daniel's clock indicating midnight which was confirmed when she looked at her watch;
- she was lying in her bed dozing a bit, but did not sleep when she suddenly heard the strong noise above her cabin ceiling which appeared to her to be "something big and strong moving from one place to another";
- immediately after this noise the vessel heeled over and Daniel shouted that they had to get out at once;
- at the same time when Daniel jumped out of the cabin door he shouted that "there was water in the alleyway";
- outside the cabin she was able to lean against a wall and pull up her jeans when she saw water penetrating the floor in front of the cabin.
Note: This area was directly above the allegedly empty starboard heeling tank which apparently was now full. This could have been affected by the opened cross-flooding valve between the full port and the allegedly empty starboard heeling tank. On the other hand the starboard heeling tank could have been full all the time. - See Subchapter 17.1 and 29.5.
- the vessel left the berth when they entered the restaurant, i.e. at 19.30 hours board time or later (because restaurant only opens at 19.30 hours);
- went at 22.00 hours on deck also to forward of deck 7 - could not see anything abnormal - it was very dark;
- was there twice again later - no change except increasing storm and higher seas;
- at ca. 23.00 hours - must be Swedish time - he went to bed, but could not sleep due to heavy labouring of the vessel and something beating frequently against the hull very heavily;
- he noted after an hour or so that it began to roar (scream, howl), squeak, shriek, scrape and finally he heard a sharp metallic breaking noise at the starboard side and aft of him, and formed the opinion that something was wrong;
Note: His cabin was next to the cabin of Martin Nilsson, i.e. also above the starboard heeling tanks/starboard stabiliser space. He was lying in his bed with his head aft. The noises came from starboard aft of abeam.
- when he had reached that conclusion the vessel started to heel to starboard;
- he opened his door and saw Martin Nilsson jumping past him;
- he rushed upwards and heard strange noises.
- when he reached the deck above (car deck) he saw water penetrating the lower part of the car deck door and when he was holding his hand to the wall aft of the door he noted that the wall was covered with white powder and foam which was slowly running down the wall.
- he continued upwards and saw no more water in the stairways.
Note: The car deck door was at the starboard side of the centre casing. The apparent fact that water penetrated the door, although the vessel heeled to starboard, demonstrates that the water level on the car deck must have been high.
- was in bed - woke up due to hard banging noises, started to climb up to deck when the vessel suddenly heeled to starboard.
The 6th compartment - located above the stabiliser compartments and in front of the engine room area.
- was in the cabin
when he heard, just before or almost at the same time when the vessel started
to heel, metallic scraping noises and the moving/falling of a heavy object;
- also the ringing of a clock began with the heeling. In addition, Andrus Maidre is quoted on page 80 in the Estonian book "Mayday Estonia":
»I had just gone down to my cabin on the 1st deck and undressed when I heard crashing and banging noises, something like a truck toppling over. Then the ferry heeled so much that already from the beginning I did not believe that she would right herself up again, which she did however. I rushed up very quickly. When I passed the car deck I saw through the door gaps that really a lot of water was flowing onto the car deck. I moved on quickly because inside at this time there was only little water.«
Note: Maidre left the cabin shortly after the big heel and apparently did not note water outside the cabin in the alleyway but some water inside the centre casing on car deck level and a lot of water on the car deck. According to Maidre's observation the car deck door in way of his staircase, which was the most aft one of the 1st deck passenger accommodation, was partly open.
- was in bed and asleep, woke up from loud rumbling noises and the vessel heeling heavily to starboard;
- on the way up he saw water running on car deck level around the corners.
- was in bed and woke up from a dangerous (evil) noise, such as metal scraping the vessel's bottom.
Note: No further information are available.
- was in bed but could not sleep - before the catastrophe heard an unusual, strange noise - cannot say exactly from where the noise came, but he had the impression that something like a barrel was rolling against something;
- when he felt the heeling he jumped up, put on his trousers and left the cabin;
- the heel was very noticeable;
- when he left the cabin there was light in the alleyway.
- went to the cabin at 22.00 hours, there was no water in the alleyway;
- was in bed and woke up, a heavy bang followed by the heeling, the whole vessel was shaking - he believes it was 01.30 hours - he did not hear the engines anymore - which he had done before;
- he remembers having heard low indefinable strange noises when he was still dozing before he was awakened by the heavy bang;
- on his way up he passed the 2nd deck, i.e. the first car deck and saw water in the alleyway.
- was asleep in the lower bunk when the vessel heeled so much that he fell out of his bunk on to the floor;
- at the same time he heard and felt an extremely hard bang which was so hard that he was thrown against the cabin wall;
- he was unable to identify from where the bang came, but it felt as if the vessel had collided with something and at the same time was heeling over extremely;
- they rushed upwards and when they passed the 2nd deck (car deck) cold water came from the vessel's side, he cannot say exactly where it came from and it was not in big quantities.
- was asleep in his bed and only woke up when he was thrown out of it by the vessel's extreme heeling;
- before he had not noted anything unusual;
- also his father was thrown out of his bed.
In summary of these statements of the survivors from the passenger accommodation on the 1st deck, the following can be concluded:
(a) 21 passengers from the 1st deck survived. This is a comparatively high number, bearing in mind that from all the six accommodation decks only 137 persons (official number) had survived, because the survivors from deck 1 had by far the longest and most difficult way to deck 7. Presum-ably because they had been warned early through their proximity to the noise scenario, they had therefore left their cabins earlier and faster than many of those from the upper decks had done.
(b) 9 reported water on the 1st deck, of which two noted the water already before the big heel, but the others only one minute or more thereafter. 4 reported a lot of water up to 0.4 m high which was rushing very quickly respectively under pressure. Thus water has been on the 1st and consequently also on 0-deck before the big heel.
(c) 9 reported water on car deck level inside the centre casing and/or penetrating the car deck, of which one saw water directly on the car deck through a partly open car deck door (most aft stairway for passengers).
(d) 14 reported the abrupt wide heel (45°-60°), were thrown out of their beds and/or against the walls etc., but only three reported that the ferry more or less righted up thereafter, although it is absolutely clear that if the ferry had not righted from a heel of 45°-60°, nobody would have been able to escape from the 1st deck or would have been able to reach the outside of deck 7 from any other deck.
(e) Water was reported from the 1st, the 3rd, the 4th and the 5th compartments. In cabin 1120 located in the first compartment in the centre line, on top of a full freshwater tank the water penetrated the door from the alleyway, i.e. the water height in the alleyway exceeded the height of the door sill. In the 3rd compartment water was noted in the alleyway, probably originating from either the spiral stairway or the lift casing. In the 4th compartment water was seen to escape from 2 ventilation openings under high pressure. In the 5th compartment water was reported to have penetrated the floor. All observations were made either in the longitudinal alleyway in the centre line or in athwartships alleyways at the starboard side only.
(f) The time for the big heel was stated only by few survivors to have been just after 01.00 hours.
(g) The noise scenario:
Most of the survivors reported at least one very heavy bang, crash, impact combined with an abrupt stopping of the vessel as if the vessel had collided with something, which was so strong that they were thrown against the walls, etc. Before this very dramatic crash/impact noise, which apparently caused the vessel to stop abruptly and which was clearly before the sharp and wide heels to starboard, there had been other noise scenarios heard by survivors, which were different. While Carl Övberg was in his cabin in the 4th compartment he heard hydraulic and sledge-hammer type banging noises. The others further forward and aft heard howling, squeaking and, most dominantly, scraping noises which were combined with the shaking of the vessel and which sounded as if the vessel proceeded through ice.
(n) This noise scenario has been explained in detail to the diving and underwater explosives expert Brian Braidwood, who has excluded, with a high degree of certainty, that any of the noises heard by the survivors could have been caused by explosions. See also Chapter 32.
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