The EPIRB Buoys
The ESTONIA was equipped with two modern EPIRB buoys (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) of type Kannad 406 F.
The last check of the radio beacons was reported to have been made about one week prior to the disaster by the radio operator. The check confirmed that the EPIRBs were in full working order and it has to be assumed that both were left in "switched-on" condition after the test.
Nevertheless, no signals from the two buoys were received in the course of the rescue operation.
The Rescue Operation
The investigation of the performance and success of those having participated in the rescue operation is not the subject of this report. Nevertheless, the rescue operation is a vital part of the ESTONIA catastrophe and therefore just the chronology reflecting the developments since the "first", weak Mayday message at 01.22 hours on Wednesday, 28 September 1994, until Thursday, 29 September 1994, shall be outlined.
As explained in Subchapter 22.1 it has to be considered likely that the "1st Mayday" had been transmitted already 30 minutes earlier, i.e. around 00.50 hours.
The now following information has been partly received from the Finnish part of the JAIC and has partly been taken from Enclosure No. 2 of the Finnish book "Uutinen Estonia". All times are in Finnish = Estonian time = ship's time. The SAR Log of MRCC Stockholm and the Alarm Log of ARCC Arlanda - attached as enclosures - are in Swedish time, i.e. Finnish time minus one hour. Accordingly the following vessels - all proceeding along the Finnish coast from East to West - have participated in the rescue operation and their tracks were plotted by the Finnish radar stations between Porkaalaa and Utö:
SILJA EUROPA - plotted track see Enclosure 22.3.378
MARIELLA - plotted track see Enclosure 22.3.379
FINNJET - plotted track see Enclosure 22.3.380
FINN MERCHANT - plotted track see Enclosure 22.3.381
FINN HANSA - plotted track see Enclosure 22.3.382
WESTÖN - plotted track see Enclosure 22.3.383
The plots begin as early as 20.59 hours (SILJA EUROPA) and show the tracks of the vessels throughout the entire rescue operation until the next morning at 07.00 hours or so.
Also SILJA SYMPHONY on voyage from Stockholm to Helsinki, thus sailing from the West to the East, had been plotted since 01.03 hours when she was still West of Utö. The tracks of most rescue vessels during the operation has been transferred on to one sheet - see page 642. This sheet even includes two unidentified vessels to the east respectively south-east of the casualty area.
On all available plotting sheets, however, ESTONIA is only shown at her casualty position, although it is stated in the report of the Coast Guard Section Turku - Skärgårdshavets Sjöbevåkningssektion Abö - dated 28.04.95 on page 3, at the bottom, that
»From the moment of her departure Estonia was under the Finnish Coast Guard's radar surveillance, the same as the other vessels' traffic. The vessel disappeared from Utö's automatic radar follow-up at 01.48 hours. At the same time the vessel also disappeared from MARIELLA's and SILJA EUROPA's radar screens.«
The complete report is attached as Enclosure 22.3.384.
Note: According to the above information the vessels were tracked auto-matically (and apparently recorded by radar), although it is stated in the Utö log that "the target had been tracked by Utö radar only from 01.40-01.48 hours" and that "at 01.48 hours radar supervisor Eija Viiala lost the target from the screen". In another report put into the INTERNET already on 01.10.94 by Kari Ili-Kuha from Tampere, Finland it is stated: »According to today's papers the ship seems to have been in trouble already over one hour before the distress signal. A female radar operator on duty in Utö fort noticed that the ship had gradually gone astray from her normal route, so that by the time of the distress signal the ship was already about 15 km South off the course and the signal was weak. The operator was surprised that the ship had not called for help earlier if they had problems. The ship had obviously had both engine and electrical problems. It remains a mystery why the crew on the bridge delayed the alarm, didn't they realise how serious the situation was? In the aftermath this is just plain useless speculation, but had they acted earlier in giving the alarm both in the ship and over the radio the number of casualties would likely not have been as high as they are now.«
Since "Eija" is a female name in Finland, the radar operator Eija Viiala stated in the Utö log could be identical to the "female radar operator" mentioned in the INTERNET message quoted above, although accor-ding to the Utö log she tracked ESTONIA only from 01.40-01.48 hours, when ESTONIA's stern was probably just settling down on the sea bottom and her bow rose out of the water, thus ESTONIA could not have changed her position very much during these 8 minutes. Two alleged radar plots were received from the Finnish Navy in this respect which are shown below.
Apparently the Navy was more talkative in the early days as obvious from the quoted INTERNET message which is apparently based on a newspaper report. The complete message is attached as Enclosure 22.3.385.
In order to find out what the Finnish Navy records had on file, a meeting was held with Commander Vesa Ennevaara at the head office of the Finnish Navy in December 1998 and the results of the discussions are summarised as follows:
»The 1994 radar system was based on the equipment from the 1980s. The software was not as comprehensive as the current one. The main difference was that the 1994 system did not record data in permanent memory, which the new system will do when fully implemented.
Tracking units, such as radar stations, aeroplanes and ships etc pick up targets and report all new objects to the next level op's centre. The acquisition of targets involves all military arms (navy, air force and army) as well as pilots, coast guard and customs. New targets are assigned a number ID and as soon as identification is possible, either by VHF or visually, the name of the object is determined. The new system will operate the identification process also by radar transponder codes, combined with the old system.
Tracking was done by one radar station at a time - feeding data to the OP's centre - until the target was formally "handed over" to the next tracking station. At the same time an object could be visible and followed on the screens of other tracking stations, as well, but they would not feed data into the system.
Tracking details were stored and transmitted in bursts from radar stations to the OP's centres. The data was stored in buffer memories. Overflow of data in a buffer memory would automatically cause deletion of the oldest data. Depending on the amount of data on each separate object this could mean anything from hours to maybe a full day or more of data remained in each buffer. The buffer for Estonia (if the ship was within range and was tracked at all, which according to Ennevaara is unclear) probably would have contained data all the way from Tallinn/Nayssaar, but no one thought to ask for it imme-diately after the accident. All old data was lost due to the lack of memory storage space and unavailability of such a software facility in 1994, because when the and rescue operation commenced much older information was quickly lost from the buffers since intense tracking at short time differentials will rapidly fill a buffer.
The area of interest to the Navy Command charged with synchronising the rescue efforts was narrow, comprising the area between Utö and Hangö only. According to Commander Ennevaara no one thought about saving historical tracking data from other areas in time.«
Note: This is obviously wrong as far as the ESTONIA is concerned, because the plot received and which is titled "40H 28/09/94 ESTONIA" was sent by fax on the day of the casualty - 28.09.94 - at 16.45 hours to the Navy's head office, thus then the stored data must still have been available as also confirmed by the also received list of times/positions/ bearings which reportedly refer to the radar station Örö (between Russarö [Hangö] and Utö). While the times and positions are mostly reflected by the plot, the bearing/speed items do not make sense and are - according to the Navy - based on the Coast Artilleries' own system which they could not explain.
»Any ship could enter Finnish territorial waters at night, without being properly identified, and leave again - unless the manoeuvre was interesting enough to cause an investigation. After such a visitor had left, the buffer memory would be used again when needed and such historical data would be lost. Coast guard stations, responsible for shipping security, would sometimes call such targets (ships) to advise them if they were heading towards danger. In case there was reply a positive ID would have been established - otherwise none at all. This could be the case irrespective of whether a target was a "red" object, unless this was known in advance and the target duly picked up and identified by plane or surface ship.«
Note: "Red" objects are warships of "unfriendly" nations.
»Coast guard radars are not operated by dedicated and trained personnel on uninterrupted duty - like the Navy and Air Force radar stations are. Even when tracking, the operator may leave the radar set for coffee or lunch or even for watch duty, without a replacement at the screen. Coast guard, pilot and customs radars are commercial equipment, without the refined electronics of military equipment. Range and resolving power, as well as tracking accuracy are therefore inferior.
The most reliable plotting is always obtained by hand. Plots obtained from stored data is always less reliable and contains spurious data. This is due to the fact that stored data contains past, present and predicted data. The predicted data may be incorrect and will be corrected on the next sweep or data transfer sequence. Even a stationary target will thus from time to time show a vector although it does not move at all.
The Navy's Estonia track was obtained from stored "buffer data" and is therefore not entirely reliable, besides not having an absolutely reliable identification (name of the ship). Nevertheless, according to Commander Ennevaara the Navy is about 90% sure that it was the Estonia. The plot in question is layed into chapter 22.
If it was not the Estonia, it would be an unidentified vessel. The radar weather was said to have been very bad and the radio communications were frequently interrupted according to the Utö radar station notes.«
Note: In any event, the radar observer Eija Viiala saw a radar target which she believed to have been the ESTONIA from the time she took over from Örö radar station apparently at 00.33 hours. Apparently she told the local newspaper shortly after the casualty what she had seen for more than 1 hour before the 'Mayday' at 01.22 hours, which makes it even more difficult to understand why the respective data should not have been secured although the respective data of all the other vessels were secured.
Commander Ennevaara explained instead that
»the radar range was only barely sufficient to pick up the site of the accident due to the distance and the very bad radar weather. The track, designated Estonia by the Navy, was named Estonia without any optical or secure identification of the target. The identity has been checked backward from the known location of the wreck by the Navy - but may have been an entirely different ship as well.«
Ennevaara offered that the radar operators may be interviewed and that the station logs be searched which, to his knowledge, has never been done so far.
Note: For time reasons it has also not been done by this 'Group of Experts".
In reply to a respective question Commander Ennevaara said that
»the Finnish Intelligence service in 1994 did not listen with the objective of locating the transmissions but in order to pick up contents of messages. Interesting messages would be transmitted to op's centres without confidentiality. (This of course must depend on the contents of the intercepted message, although Commander Ennevaara did not say so.)«
In a subsequent telephone interview the watch officer of SILJA EUROPA, Teijo Seppelin (the MARIELLA witnesses could not be reached), stated the following:
»- as far as he could see, the Estonia was never in front of SILJA EUROPA - but came up from the south-east. This track would be different from the Navy radar track designated Estonia - and would be similar to the one put forward by the JAIC. Seppelin said that the Estonia normally came up straight from the south-east, i.e. from what must have been the Estonia/Nayssaar sound and crossed the track of the SILJA EUROPA. One crew of the Estonia would arrogantly cross the SILJA EUROPA track close under the bow and force the Officer to pull back on the engines, while the other crew would always pass politely under the stern. This was in the summer when the SILJA EUROPA entered at Sandhamn and the Estonia at Söderarm.
- he does not believe that the Navy track is that of the Estonia. Neither does the officer (Capt. Ltn. Niemelä from Utö), who was in charge of the radar station, primarily because the Navy track follows the normal routing system, initially west then, west-south-west.
- he does not recall radio interruptions but remembers that the MARIELLA's inability to reach Helsinki Radio on VHF Ch 16 and MF 2182 was widely discussed afterwards. He recalls the Mayday signals were of distinctly different character, one very weak and the other quite normal in strength.«
So much for the Finnish Navy.
While searching through the files of the public prosecutor in Stockholm a copy was found referring to a drawing belonging to an article which had appeared in the Estonian newspaper ILTA-SANOMAT on 01.10.1994. It shows the deviation of ESTONIA to the South of the normal route (see interview above of the Utö radar observer in the INTERNET message - Enclosure 22.3.385) and the apparent existence of another vessel in the vicinity of the casualty position, viz. the BALANGA QUEEN which had allegedly passed "very close" to the casualty position. On the above-mentioned copy it is handwritten in Swedish:
»If the BALANGA QUEEN had not been ahead of schedule and if ESTONIA had called for help when her problems actually started, then hundreds of lives could have been saved.«
»Why ESTONIA's emergency messages or other radio communica-tions were delayed and did not reach BALANGA QUEEN is still unclear.«
The (available) files of the prosecutor do not contain any more documentation in regard to BALANGA QUEEN nor do the (available) files of the Swedish and Finnish parts of the JAIC. The logbook page 2 is attached as Enclosure 22.3.386.
Consequently another INTERNET search was performed and under the date 29.09.94 the following was found:
»Not that my opinion of Estonian seamen is much higher. The papers quote surviving truck drivers who had asked why their trucks were not chained to their places, stormy weather and all. "It's not necessary', they were answered. And there was an Estonian passenger ship, Balanga something, that was only 30 sea miles south of "Estonia" but didn't pick up the emergency signal while four Finnish ones did and went to help.«
Further inquiries revealed that the BALANGA QUEEN was a car/passenger ferry bareboat chartered by TALLINK, the ferry subsidiary of ESCO, the 50% shareholders of the ESTONIA. The ferry was trading between Travemünde and Tallinn and had an Estonian crew.
Her particulars are as follows:
BALANGA QUEEN ex SCANDINAVIAN SUN ex CARIBE
9963 GRT / 4759 NRT / 2337 TDW
length: 134.45 m breadth: 21.87 m draught: 5.52 m
main engine: 20EW-Pielstick 16,000 hp - 21.0 kn.
built: 1968 by LMG, Lübeck
The ferry departed from Travemünde on 26.09.94 at 18.20 hours, i.e. based on a service speed of 18.0 kn she should have been abeam of Ristna (western tip of Hiumaa Island) at 22.30 hours plus 1 hour time difference = 23.30 hours and turned on a north-easterly heading towards Glotov buoy.
Between 00.00 and 00.30 hours ESTONIA must have passed BALANGA QUEEN at a distance of 12-13 nm, i.e. the vessels saw each other. As in all probability ESTONIA was already in trouble then, it would have been a matter of good seamanship and proper care for the passengers to ask the company vessel to standby in the vicinity and escort ESTONIA into the shelter of the Island Hiumaa, but apparently nothing the like occurred.
To the contrary - reportedly the master of the BALANGA QUEEN had offered help at some time which had been rejected by the Estonian Coast Guard. This information comes from a source in Travemünde who spoke to the master of BALANGA QUEEN after his return from the voyage in question. According to the report of the JAIC - Table 7.6 on page 107 - the ferry arrived on site at 14.31 hours only, i.e. when she was already on her way back to Travemünde. The early passing is not mentioned.
A further product of the above-mentioned INTERNET search for the BALANGA QUEEN is the LEONID BYKOV incident, because on the same page the following is reported:
»To Dragon Fly and all other fans of Russian seamanship, a minor news item from today's Aamulehti, bottom corner of page 13:
On Wednesday night, an hour after "Estonia" had sunk, the coast guards of Jussar Lighthouse noticed a ship sailing off course towards underwater rocks. They tried to alert the crew with searchlights and radio messages in Finnish, Swedish and English. No response. The ship passed the lighthouse, averted the first rocks by sheer luck, then turned sharply to south and safety. After radio contact was established the captain of the "Leonid Bykov" explained that the fresh First Officer keeping watch didn't know any English, but when the radio messages continued, he figured out that maybe he needed to wake up the captain (who had made the safety move).
Earlier this month another Russian vessel, "Volgoneft 104", was in a similar situation near Jussar.«
Further inquiries in the INTERNET revealed that the vessel is a "research vessel", owned by the Moscow River Shipping Company, which is owned by the Ministry for Post and Communication. The vessel is said to have 4540 GRT and was built in 1991.
The other vessel mentioned, the VOLGONEFT 104, is owned by the same organisation of the same type - "research vessel".
After initial problems, the copies of the logbook entries from Jussar Coast Guard Station have been received. This station is located about 18 nm east of Hangö. The entries read - office translated - as follows:
»Time 0122 Phoned to operations centre [MVAK] regarding an unidentified target in position 59 degrees 46' P [longitude] 23 degrees 45' l [latitude], heading 265 degrees.«
»Time 0132 Enquired the position of Valpas [patrol boat?], it was east of Porkkala.«
»Time 0135 Tried several times to get contact via VHF-16 without result. The heading of the target still straight to Segelskär. AP [abbreviation of aluepäällikkö = district chief] is informed about the situation.«
»Time 0205 I tried to get in radio contact via VHF-1 without result. The reserves have been awakened.«
»Time 0225 RV-124 left the quay. As master Illman and as crew Englund and Lehtinen.«
»Time 0256 The target (cargo) turned in position 59 degrees 45'4 P, 23 degrees 31',31 to the south.«
»Time 0257 Achieved radio contact via VHF-16 with the vessel "Leonid Bykov" from St. Petersburg, on voyage from Vyborg to Pori. The name of the master Juri Chikov. According to the master the explanation for the odd heading was that the helm man did not know the position and did not understand English.«
»Time 0310 Commanded RV-124 to return.«
»Time 0344 "Leonid Bykov" left the territorial waters in position 59 degrees 41',8 P 23 degrees 29',5 l.«
A further inquiry with Lloyd's Maritime Information Services has revealed the following:
»1. The Russian flag motor general cargo vessel "Leonid Bykov", of 4,096 tonnes gross, 4,540 deadweight, built 1991, has a draught of 3.16 m, a length overall of 138.40 m, and an extreme breadth of 16.75 m. Vessel's former name is "Volzhskiy-41".
2. With regard to her whereabouts on 27th to 30th September 1994, the "Leonid Bykov" was reported to have arrived at Vyborg, Russia, on 24th September 1994, then to have sailed from Vyborg on 27th September 1994. Vessel was then next reported to have arrived at Mantyluoto, Finland, on 1st October 1994.«
It was subsequently confirmed by the port authorities of Pori (Mantyluoto) that the LEONID BYKOV arrived at this port on October 1st, 1994 and discharged 4326 ts of coal. Consequently it has to be assumed that this vessel had nothing to do with the sinking of the ESTONIA. However, it has been known for many years that the Russian Intelligence name their "research vessels", equipped for electronic surveillance and other activities, the same as their ordinary merchant vessels, i.e. while the research vessel is doing its job silently - not too far away - the ordinary vessel with the same name is attracting the attention of the authorities one way or the other by some spectacular activity as the merchant vessel "LEONID BYKOV" indeed did. The distance between the ESTONIA's casualty position and the "near-grounding" of "LEONID BYKOV" was about 65 kn.
So much for the vessels and shore stations having participated or not participated in the ESTONIA drama before, during or after the distress communication.
Next the schedule of the rescue operation, the alert of the media, the notification of the government and other activities shall be outlined from the Finnish point of view:
Thereby following abbreviations are used:
DVS = Disaster Victims Investigation
MRCC = Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre
MRSC = Maritime Rescue Sub Centre
STT = Finnish News Agency
TT = Swedish News Agency
TYKS = The University Hospital in Turku
01.22 Received weak Mayday, probably from ESTONIA.
01.24 The Mayday message from ESTONIA is picked up at least by the following stations:
MRCC Turku, MRSC Turku, MRSC Mariehamn, Coast Guard Kökar, Utö Fortress, the ferries: ANETTE, FINNJET, FINN MERCHANT, MARIELLA, SILJA EUROPA, SILJA SYMPHONY.
01.25 MRCC Turku calls Nauvo to instruct MRSC Turku to alert the coast guard vessel TURSAS.
01.24/25 ESTONIA informs SILJA EUROPA about her problems, the last communication with ESTONIA ends at 01.29m39sec.
01.29 MARIELLA tries to reach Helsinki Radio on VHF-Channel 16 and 2182 kHz , in vain. MRSC Turku (Nauvo) informs TURSAS about the casualty. MRSC Mariehamn alerts the commander of the rescue area, Pekka Kiviniemi, who arrives at the MRSC at 01.45.
01.31 MRSC confirms that MRCC Turku has been informed.
01.33 MRCC Turku alerts Mikko Montonen, who is on watch. He arrives at the MRCC at 01.40.
01.35 The bridge of ESTONIA is submerged. MARIELLA observes that the lights of ESTONIA black out. MRCC Turku transfers the alarm to the SAR-helicopter crew on standby. The alarm is confirmed by the crew.
01.42 SILJA EUROPA relays the distress call of ESTONIA by mobile phone to MRCC Helsinki (after they had tried to reach them in vain on channel 16 and 2182 kHz). MARIELLA informs Helsinki Radio simultaneously.
01.45 MRCC Helsinki informs MRCC Turku that they are aware of the distress case.
01.47 SILJA EUROPA in communication with Helsinki Radio on channel 16, they are going to transmit a PAN PAN message.
01.48 ESTONIA disappears from the screen of the Utö radar station. This is also observed by MRCC Turku and MRSC Mariehamn. MRCC admonishes Helsinki Radio to transmit a "Mayday relay" message on channel 16 instead of PAN PAN.
01.50 Helsinki Radio begins transmitting the PAN PAN message on channel 16.
01.52 MRSC Mariehamn informs MRCC Stockholm about the casualty (this was recorded in Stockholm at 01.55).
01.57 MRCC Stockholm calls MRCC Helsinki and offers help. They are informed that MRCC Turku is co-ordinating the rescue operation.
01.58 MRCC Stockholm calls MRCC Turku, they are brought up-to-date and are requested to send helicopters. MRCC Stockholm alerts ARCC Arlanda and requests the activation of all available helicopters.
02.00 M. Montonen (MRCC Turku) calls for the first time at Commodore Raimo Tillikainen's home at Espoo and informs him about the Mayday call. The second call follows about 5 minutes later when the sinking of the ferry is already reported. Tillikainen advises that he shall proceed to Turku.
02.03 Heikki Himanen, on standby service, arrives at MRCC Turku.
02.05 MRCC Turku appoints Esa Mäkelä, Master of the SILJA EUROPA, as Commander-on-scene of the rescue operation.
02.06 MRCC Turku informs MRSC Hangö about the casualty.
02.07 The Swedish helicopter Q98 is alerted in Visby.
02.10 Helicopter Q91 is alerted in Ronneby.
02.12 MARIELLA is sighting lights, lifevests, lifeboats, liferafts.
02.15 MRCC Turku informs the District Emergency Centre Turku.
02.15 The serviceman of TT-Stockholm calls the serviceman of STT-Helsinki and requests information about the casualty. STT knows nothing. Some minutes later TT-calls again. The serviceman of STT phones MRCC Turku and receives the respective information, informs the manager of STT and puts into motion the alerting of the media, draws up a flash message which is transmitted at 02.43.
02.18 MRCC Turku requests MRCC Helsinki to call the standby helicopter crew on standby.
02.20 MRCC Turku appoints Utö as evacuation centre. Vice Commander Simo Pitkänen arrives at MRCC Turku.
02.21 MRCC puts on alert the standby helicopter. (at 03.36 hours the helicopter departs from Helsinki).
02.30 MARIELLA, at the casualty position, confirms that the ferry sank and that passengers are in the water, drops liferafts into the water, observes one person in a lifeboat, at 02.34 MARIELLA reports that several persons are in the water. Super Puma helicopter departs from Turku airport. MRCC defines casualty as "large casualty" and puts into motion the respective alarm, a/o the leading group of the rescue area is called to the MRCC.
02.36 MRCC Turku requests the SAR Centre to send one helicopter, subsequently - at 02.52 - to send more. According to the SAR Centre the first contact was at 02.50.At 02.58 the SAR Centre is requesting the Airforce to send as many helicopters as possible, as soon as possible.
02.43 STT-Flash: "ESTONIA capsized and sank. Lifeboats and people in the sea."
02.44 SILJA EUROPA arrives at the casualty position.
ca. 02.45 A propeller plane flies over the liferafts.
02.50 MRCC Stockholm contacts the Estline representative, Mats Björnudd, and asks for the passenger list.
02.55 MRCC Helsinki is asking MRCC Tallinn for information about the passengers and is informed that ESTONIA sailed from Tallinn on the previous evening with 679 passengers and 188 crew members. Helsinki does not inform Tallinn in detail about the casualty, only that something has happened and that people are in distress.
03.00 MRCC Stockholm offers 2 helicopters from Denmark.
03.05 The first helicopter, a Super Puma OH-HVG from Turku, arrives at the casualty site, is at first searching for people in the water, in vain, is then searching the liferafts. By 04.15 four persons have been winched up, landed on SILJA EUROPA, whereafter the helicopter returns to Turku for refuelling and to pick up another surface rescuer.
03.08 MARIELLA rescues 6-7 persons by means of her own raft.
03.15 The transport air fleet of Uti is alerted.
03.30 MRCC Helsinki reports the casualty to the watch officer of the border police. He contacts MRCC Turku at 03.40 and receives the latest news. He alerts the commander of the border control and the Government.
03.35 *MRCC Turku informs SAR Tallinn that no further search vessels are required.
03.39 2nd flash message from STT: The sea watch Turku was alarmed at about 02.00. By 03.00 some persons were found in the sea. On the ferry there were 679 passengers and 188 crew members.
03.49 STT: at 05.00 press conference at the police headquarters Turku.
03.50 The first special news by Radio Finland, thereafter up-date reports every half hour.
04.05 *MRCC Helsinki informs SAR Tallinn that no further search vessels are required.
04.15 Commodore Raimo Tillikainen arrives at the MRCC Turku. The helicopter crew of Rovaniemi's watch fleet is alerted.
04.28 STT: Up until 04.00. 7 persons rescued.
04.30 Text TV is from now on continuously reporting about the casualty.
04.38 The first helicopter of the military forces (HS-14X-92) departs from Uti.
04.40 The watch officer of the border guard staff is reporting the casualty to the safety adviser of the Government, who re-checks the facts with MRCC Turku and who calls the Speaker of the Government at
04.50. He in turn informs the Prime Minister at 04.55. The members of the Government are informed up until 05.40.
05.00 Press conference at police headquarters Turku. News from Radio Finland: A more detailed telegram and a telephone interview with Per-Erik Cederqvist, information manager of MARIELLA, who reports that a Swedish passenger, interviewed by him, has said * According to the book by Andi Meister "The Unfinished Logbook". that the casualty occurred very quickly. Shifting of cargo might have caused the casualty. The question whether all people could have been rescued is answered with: hopeless.
05.35 STT: According to doctors, the situation of the people in the water is almost hopeless due to hypothermia.
05.40 STT: It is feared that about 850 people have died, because up until 05.00 only 10-20 were picked up.
05.50 The Estonian coast guard reports to MRCC Helsinki that a plane from Estonia is flying to the casualty position. MRCC replies that the plane is not needed, it would only disturb the helicopters.
06.00 Radio Finland News, among other things an interview with Raimo Tillikainen, telephone reports from Stockholm and Tallinn. First news from Radio Mafia, thereafter news every half hour. MTB/BBC News: ESTONIA sank within 5 minutes, 677 passengers and 188 crew, of which 25 rescued, presumably several hundred drowned. "Uncertainty about the cause, but shifting of cargo is possible."
06.14 MTV 3 / Good morning, Finland: Launi Karhuvaara: "Information about the sinking, 640 passengers and 188 crew, about 20 rescued, a photo from Sandell, reporter from Turku, who just returned from the press conference, VIKING SALLY in the background, Sandell about the reasons: The rescue people say, in case of blackout such a large ferry cannot be controlled in a storm, probably the cargo shifted, the list increases and the ferry capsizes! Interview with Cederqvist from MARIELLA: They have picked up 12. I am fearing the worst, it looks bad, hundreds died. Everything happened very fast, maybe in 5 minutes only."
06.38 MTV 3 / Good morning, Finland: Chief pilot Hartikainen from the helicopter service takes off with a cameraman from MTV in order to film on site. In the studio remains Kristian Rehuström from the Finnish Rescue Service who stayed all morning.
07.00 The first special news from TV 1 from Uleis-Radio (TV - Radio), logo of ESTONIA in the background, report from Turku: distress call, chart, picture of press conference, interview with Raimo Tillikainen. News from Radio Finland: Interviews with
- Raimo Tillikainen -
- Jarkko Miettinen (Utö)
- Juha Niinikowski (University Hospital, Turku)
- Esa Mäkelä - SILJA EUROPA
- Cederqvist - MARIELLA
- Ulla-Maija Määttänen from Tallinn (criticises the bad information policy of Estonia).
07.10 TV-Nytt: The first Swedish news (in Finland)
07.30 MTV 3 / Good morning, Finland: News/Telegram: "Cause of the casualty possibly shifting of cargo. 28 trucks on the ferry." Government in special meeting.
07.35 STT: According to information from Stockholm most of the passengers are Swedes, 3 Finnish passengers, 1 Finnish crew member.
07.56 MTV 3 / Good morning, Finland: Raimo Tillikainen in a direct telephone interview.
08.13 SILJA EUROPA reports to have rescued about 90. At 09.19 MRCC Turku informs Stockholm that about 90 were rescued.
08.15 MTV / Good morning, Finland: Direct telephone interview with Lennart Meri (President of Estonia), picture in background: "I received the first reports at about 03.00. I am thankful that the Finnish rescuers have been so effective and active."
08.24 STT: Survivors are continuously being brought to Utö. According to Lieutenant Miettinen they are shaken and cold, hardly remember the casualty and are unable to report how they got into the water.
08.25 STT: According to the doctors and rescue crew the situation for those still in the sea or in the ESTONIA is hopeless.
08.44 MTV 3 / Good morning, Finland: A direct telephone interview with Raimo Tillikainen: 90 rescued. Lauri Karkuvaara: 90 in such a short time? How is this possible? RT: The rescue operation is carried out effectively, a plane is guiding the helicopters all the time. At 08.56 from Turku: a picture is shown of a patient being brought from a helicopter into Turku Hospital (the first action picture on TV).
08.54 STT: The Finnish Government has been informed, has agreed the co-ordination of the activities, has ordered the rescue organisations from Estonia and Sweden to come to Finland and has nominated a working team of 4 Ministers (Pekkarinen, Norrbach, Huuhtanen, Jää Heenmäki). According to the Minister of the Interior, Pekkarinen, the rescue operation has gone well up to now.
09.00 The last survivor is brought to Utö. A press conference at the police headquarters Turku.
09.00 Yle TV 1 Extra News: 90 rescued, the reason for the sinking is unknown to us. Apparently the ferry sustained a bad list after the trucks had shifted. Interview with Raimo Tillikainen. A telephone call from Ulla-Maija Määttänen from Tallinn, the speaker asks: "This casualty will raise serious questions about the safety of Estonian shipping. Has this already been mentioned?" Ulla-Maija Määttänen reports about the ferry traffic to Tallinn, "the ferries are all Swedish, i.e. it is for sure that subsequently the seaworthiness of jumbo ferries shall be discussed." Yle's first picture of the survivors: a Swedish helicopter at Turku Hospital.
09.10 TV-Nytt: Interview with a Swedish helicopter pilot refuelling at Mariehamn.
09.35 STT-Ako: Government is shaken. Ahtisaari expresses his sympathy to Lennart Meri. After Ako also Bildt expresses his appreciation to the Finnish Authorities for their well organised rescue operation. "The Swedish rescue units found good working conditions, in that respect everything went well according to the circumstances", said Ako.
10.00 Press conference of the Finnish Government in Helsinki.
10.03 STT: A group of volunteers from the Finnish Red Cross and a psychological organisation commence working.
10.05 STT: According to Pekkarinen the co-operation with the Swedish Authorities is very good. Pekkarinen reports that the Estonian Authorities were informed at 02.00 by the Finnish Authorities. The flow of information is functioning well assures the minister.
10.11 STT: According to Norrbach the rescue operation has gone well up to now. Norrbach warns not to draw too early conclusions concerning the ferry traffic between Sweden and Finland.
10.14 STT: Bildt expresses his thanks to the helicopter crews for their good performance.
10.22 STT: Press conference of the Finnish President, whereby, among other things, also the contacts to the King of Sweden and to the Estonian President are reported. Both thereafter expressed their thanks to those participating in the rescue operation.
10.44 STT: The Ministry of the Interior orders a flag-mourning day for Finland, in Estonia it is a mourning day.
11.00 Yle TV 1, News: Interview with Raimo Tillikainen (taken at about 10.00): Is it possible to still find survivors in the afternoon? RT: I hope so. The first interview with relatives in Stockholm harbour; an interview with Lennart Meri (the most quiet and devout part of a rather hectic news broadcast). The flow of information between Finland, Sweden and Estonia has gone well, the Estonian Authorities were informed already shortly after 02.00. Statements by Esko Ako and Mauri Pekkarinen.
11.26 STT: One of the survivors reports at Utö Fortress "that he was awakened, in his cabin near the car deck, by loud banging noises from this deck".
12.00 MTV 3: The first interview with a survivor (Karmet). The first of the bodies are landed at Utö. Press conference in the police headquarters Turku.
12.46 STT: A rescued Estonian crew member tells TT that "one of the car doors in the bow could not be closed during the night. The door which was used by the cars let water in. According to Sillaste the ferry heeled over only thereafter."
13.00 Yle TV 1, News: More than 100 have survived, bodies found so far: 5. An interview with was Vassili Märtson, Estonian, just being transported on a stretcher into the hospital of Tammisaari informs about the causes of the casualty: "A crew member of the ferry told me that one of the bow doors could not be closed during the night and through that water was flooding on to the car deck." STT: ".... the reasons for the casualty are still completely in the dark."
13.20 TV-Nytt: The cause of the casualty: "Slarvigt lockt, lucka", i.e. a care-lessly/or sloppily closed lock. The first interview with Vihlo Itäranta (from the hospital in Tammisaari). 13.25-15.30: The first helicopter flight with journalists to the casualty site and to Utö.
15.00 Yle TV 1: "According to an eye witness from the crew the cause for the casualty was a bow door left open. According to the eye witness it was not possible to close the door and before midnight water started to flow on to the car deck." An interview of Sillaste.
17.19 STT: Report by a Dutch truck driver that the trucks were not secured.
19.58 STT: The Prime Ministers decide on mutual co-operation. Finland and Sweden are to send experts to the Estonian Investigation Commission.
20.40 STT: Swedish inspectors of Sjöfartsverket ascertain defects on the ESTONIA on Tuesday evening (overaged lashings, worn sealings, no lashing manual). "The deficiencies, however, were not so big that they could have caused such a large casualty. We are of the opinion that the ferry was well maintained."
22.24 MRCC Tallinn is requesting MRCC Helsinki to find out whether Capt. Avo Piht has survived. Helsinki asks Turku. There is no information on Piht.
09.15 STT: The search for the wreck begins today for investigation purposes. "We can neither deny nor confirm the theory that the casualty was caused by opened doors", says Kari Lethola.
20.50 Captain Avo Piht is not on the list of survivors. Tallinn is informed respectively.
The above is an office translation of Enclosure No. 2 of the Finnish book "Uutinen Estonia". The German version is attached as Enclosure 22.3.387. Further attached are in Swedish original
- the SAR Log of MRCC Stockholm - Enclosure 22.3.388
- the Alarm Log of ARCC Arlanda - Enclosure 22.3.389
In summary the following statements made by surviving crew members at a very early stage after just having been rescued and still suffering from hypothermia shall be quoted:
- 11.26 STT: One of the survivors reports at Utö Fortress "that he was awakened, in his cabin near the car deck, by loud banging noises from this deck".
- 12.46 STT: A rescued Estonian crew member tells TT that "one of the car doors in the bow could not be closed during the night. The door which was used by the cars let water in. According to Sillaste the ferry heeled over only thereafter."
- 13.00 Yle TV 1, News: More than 100 have survived, bodies found so far: 5. An interview with was Vassili Märtson, Estonian, just being transported on a stretcher into the hospital of Tammisaari informs about the causes of the casualty: "A crew member of the ferry told me that one of the bow doors could not be closed during the night and through that water was flooding on to the car deck."
- 13.20 TV-Nytt: The cause of the casualty: "Slarvigt lockt, lucka", i.e. a care-lessly/or sloppily closed lock. The first interview with Vihlo Itäranta (from the hospital in Tammisaari).
- 15.00 Yle TV 1: "According to an eye witness from the crew the cause for the casualty was a bow door left open. According to the eye witness it was not possible to close the door and before midnight water started to flow on to the car deck." An interview of Sillaste.
- 17.19 STT: Report by a Dutch truck driver that the trucks were not secured.
- 20.40 STT: Swedish inspectors of Sjöfartsverket ascertained defects on the ESTONIA on Tuesday evening (overaged lashings, worn sealings, no lashing manual). "The deficiencies, however, were not so big that they could have caused such a large casualty. We are of the opinion that the ferry was well maintained."
- "We can neither deny nor confirm the theory that the casualty was caused by opened doors", says Kari Lethola.
The above is the only comment made by a member of the JAIC to the effect that the casualty might have been caused by "not properly" or even "opened" doors.
Thereby it is unclear whether the visor - also called 'bow door' or the 'bow ramp', sometimes also called 'door' or 'gate' - is meant.
It is also interesting that the President of Estonia, Lennart Meri, told the press that he had been informed about the catastrophe already at about 03.00 hours, while the Finnish Government, first of all the Prime Minister, was informed only at 04.55 hours and the other Government members thereafter until about 05.40 hours. At that time the chairman of the Finnish part of the JAIC, Kari Lethola, was already on his way to Turku.
On the other hand, MRCC Helsinki did inform MRCC Tallinn at 02.55 hours, but "not in detail, only that something had happened and that people were in distress", whilst subsequently - at 10.05 hours - the Finnish Minister of the Interior Pekkavinen told the press that "the Estonian Authorities were informed at 02.00 hours by the Finnish Authorities".
Apparently there were "other authorities" also involved in the casualty which had nothing to do with the rescue services and which must have been informed already that ESTONIA was in trouble while the vessel was still afloat.
It also has to be assumed with certainty that there had been intense communication between the ESTONIA and Tallinn, at least during the last hour, and that ESCO knew what was going on onboard the ESTONIA much before the first, weak 'Mayday' was received by MARIELLA. Officially 137 persons survived the catastrophe, 93 bodies were brought ashore and identified, and 759 persons are officially missing. These figures do not include the Iraqis in the trailer on the car deck, the unregistered Pakistanis and the also unregistered relatives of crew members also said to have been on board.
In the previous subchapters many of the survivors have made a number of relevant observations of which the following shall be quoted:
Motorman Elmar Siegel: He saw from the liferaft the "man over board" boat proceeding away from the ESTONIA without caring for those in the water or in the liferafts.
Note: This boat is a motor launch located on the starboard side behind the bridge. It is lifeboat no. 1 specially equipped for emergency actions, e.g. if somebody has fallen over board. - See further in Subchapter 23.1.
Passenger Thure Palmgren: He saw from the liferaft something like a fishing boat proceeding away from the vessel without taking care for those in the water and in the liferafts.