THE CASUALTY SCENARIO
It is nearly impossible to reconstruct the exact casualty scenario, in particular because the key witnesses from the crew did not yet tell the truth. In order to get as close as possible to reality a sequence-of-events has been developed which is based on
(a) the observations and the noise scenario according to the survivors' statements as explained in Chapters 20/21 and
(b) the damage to wreck and visor as outlined in Chapters 29/30.
Also the condition of the ESTONIA upon departure from Tallinn - see Chapter 19 - and the apparent fact that the ferry was still in normal condition when she was observed by the Polish Ro-Ro vessel AMBER at about 23.30 hours were taken into consideration as were the positions and conditions of wreck and visor.
This sequence-of-events has been reconstructed by means of a model of the damaged foreship including the bow ramp and the damaged visor. Photos made of the decisive stages are incorporated into the casualty scenario on the following pages, which has been amended by drawings whenever considered necessary.
The scenario starts with the condition of the ferry upon departure from Tallinn at about 19.30 hours on the 27th September 1994. The departure condition is demonstrated by drawings and text below.
Visor Locking Devices: Atlantic Lock / hydraulic side locks engaged, manual side locks - not engaged
Ramp locking devices: Starboard ramp hook and securind bolts not engaged, Port ramp
hook and securing bolts not engaged
Gaps between ramp/car deck seales by mattresses, blanjets, rags.
After the bow ramp had been closed as tight as possible by means of a tarpaulin at the top and a mooring rope in the winch drums - see Chapters 16/19 - and further, after the bolt of the Atlantic lock had been hammered by crewmembers through the 3 bent and misaligned lugs on the forepeak deck - see the footprints in the visor on Sheet 9 - Chapter 30 - the ferry quickly picked up speed when she followed the westbound lane in the TSS between the island Nayssaar and the mainland. Due to the missing and/or defect rubber packings on the forepeak deck - see Sheet 7 in Chapter 29.2 - the inside of the visor quickly filled with water to the outer level.
The water level inside the visor was raising the deeper the bow was pitching into the waves coming in from port forward. Simultaneously water penetrated to the car deck at the port lower side of the bow ramp in spite of the "sealing material" stuffed into the big gap by the crew. - See drawings on the following page 1051.
At the end of the TSS off Suurupi Lighthouse the course was changed to 262° and the ferry proceeded with all 4 main engines on full output along the Estonian North coast. Due to the increasing south-westerly gale the ferry heeled 2-4° to starboard and was pitching harder and harder. - See Chapter 30. Passengers started to feel unwell and several became seasick.
Even with calm sea the water level inside the visor was rising above the 3rd stringer
when the vessel was at full speed. The lower side of the bow ramp was below
3rd stringer level, thus even in clam sea the water from the visor was penetrating
the gap in the bow ramp and was flooding onte the car deck.
In the course of the following 1 - 1,5 hours the bow was diving increasingly deeper into the wave troughs and finally the foreship was shipping green water onto the forecastle deck. Therefore, it has to be assumed that the visor had been filled up with water up to the 1st stringer level or even higher. This means that the weight of the visor increased from 55 ts to approximately 200 ts which had, among other things, the effect that the 0,5 m stern trim might have been reduced.
Due to the high water column inside the visor and the respective pressure on the unsecured ramp the port lower corner of which being plugged with "sealing material" the water quantities penetrating the gaps and streaming onto the car deck were increasing and accumulating at starboard to which side the vessel was continuously heeling since departure the scuppers at the starboard side being most likely unable to swallow all the water streaming into the car deck. To avoid the worst the crew seems to have opened the starboard stern ramp slightly and have kept it in such condition by means of the ice braking cylinders against which the ramp was pressed by the actuators to maintain the gap through which water was flowing from the car deck. The resulting high pitch hydraulic noise created by the aft hydraulic pumps disturbed the conference held on the 4th deck above to such an effect that it had to be closed down at about 20.45 hours. -See the statement of Rolf Sörman - Enclosure 184.108.40.2065.1.
The approximate condition - existing onboard since about 20.45 hours - is demonstrated by the drawings on page 1054 ff.
Since some time already low metallic banging noises had been noted by several passengers throughout the ship but, in particular, by those in the foreship area and in the sauna located on the 0-deck. See the statements of Mikael Öun - Enclosures 17.2.224 / 17.2.225. At 23.30 hours ESTONIA passed the AMBER with very high speed, pitching severely in high seas from forward directions and taking green water onto the forecastle deck and spray all over the vessel. See the statement of the AMBER watch officer - Enclosure 20.237.
1. At ca. 20.45hrs. the aft hydraulic pumps were started on the STB. stern ramp opened slightly.
2. Due to the stern trim and the STB. heel of the ferry the water penetrating through the improperly
closed bow ramp streamed off the car deck through the slightly open STB. stern ramp.
3.The high and very disturbing hydraulic noise was hearg throughout the evening.
4. The vessel was pitching very hard in rough head seas.
1. Due to increasing wave height and deep pitching of the ferry the water level inside
the visor rose higher and the pressure on the "sealing" material
2. Water entered the car deck in increasing quatities.
3. The ferry made very hard pitch movements.
4. The bow ramp was kept more or less closed by the rope and the water pressure from the
visor side, however water penetrated at both sides of the ramp
5. This was the condition on board the ESTONIA when she met "AMBER".
Many passengers heard low metallic banging caused by visor moving within play
of locking devices due to misaligned visor, damaged stempost and missing rubber packings.
The watch officer of the AMBER saw ESTONIA the last time at about 23.30 hours in the radar and apparently did not see anything abnormal as he would otherwise remember it.
The track of the ESTOINA during the last hour before reaching the waypoint is unknown although big deviations were not possible due to the distance to be covered in the short time available.
At about 00.30 hours on 28 September 1994 the waypoint was reached and the course was changed 25° to starboard to 287°. The vessel began to roll in addition to heavy and hard pitching, because wind and sea came now about 4 points from the port side. The approximate condition of the ferry is demonstrated by the drawings following.
A little later the stabilisers were activated from the bridge, but it appeared that the starboard one did not move out of its pocket which was located about midships on 0-deck level. Sometime later the crew seems to have started to work on that stabiliser and have tried to hammer it out by means of sledge hammers. See the statement of Carl Övberg - Enclosure 220.127.116.11.
At about 00.40/45 hours 1-2 heavy bangs, crashed were felt when the watchman A. B. Silver Linde came again to the car deck and must have seen big quantities of water moving between the cars and trucks, with personal cars already floating around in the forepart of the deck. Due to the heavily and hard labouring vessel there must have been heavy movement of the water.
Silver Linde alarmed the bridge at once by walkie-talkie shouting that there was much more water on the car deck and they had to leave the vessel. This was overheard by safety officer Ervin Roden, who had his walkie-talkie switched on when he was in his cabin - see statement of Paula Liikamaa Enclosure 18.104.22.1682. The watch officer certainly informed the master who most likely told him to send the boatswain with some deckhands down to try to rectify the situation. Most likely the chief mate and the chief engineer were also called to the bridge and the 2nd mate Peeter Kannuussaar sent down to the car deck as well, which would be the normal procedure.
1. Stabilisers activated and possibly problems with starboard fin.
2. Vessel took green water on forecastle deck due to very heavy pitching movements.
3. Water level inside visor was rising to about 1st stringer level.
4. Water ingress onto car deck had been increasing for some time but, the accumulation
of big water quantities on starboard side was avoided by the slightly open starboard stern ramp.
1. Low banging noises continued 2. Port stabiliser fin activated, crew started to work on the starboard fin. 3.The watch A.B. noted alot of water on the car deck, alarmed the bridge and crew was activated 4.The course was changed to starboard and the ferry began to roll heavily, whereafter the vessel was turned back to port and stated to pitch heavily. The speed was reduced. 5.The crew was working on the car deck to control the water ingress which turned out to be impossible. 6. The vessel made deep, slow pitch movements and was slightly rolling, more to starboard, less to port.
As the very weak condition of visor and bow ramp were with certainty known to the vessel's command, the speed was reduced and the bow slowly turned to starboard in an attempt to reduce the load on the visor and to avoid green water on to the forecastle deck, because crew members had to work also there and had to enter the port side house from there as it was certainly not possible to reach the control panel from the centre casing. It was necessary for crew members to get to the forward port side of the car deck to the control panel to activate the hydraulic pumps in order to close the bow ramp best terms possible and probably also to hold the visor down hydraulically.
The vessel made slower but deeper pitch movements due to the speed reduction, but the rolling increased dangerously when the vessel got into or almost into beam seas. To reduce the rolling the ferry was turned back to port. The vessel was again in head seas, the heavy rolling stopped, but the deep pitch movements increased again and green water was taken on the forecastle, whereafter the crew had to abandon their attempts to close the bow ramp by heaving the mooring line. The bow ramp was then held by the actuators which, however, could only close the ramp to a final opening of about 5 cm. Thus water continued to stream onto the car deck and there was nothing the crew could do about it. It has to be assumed that the nautical advisor, Captain Juri Aavik, was also on the car deck/on the forecastle deck doing his utmost to get the situation under control, however in vain. It has further to be assumed that the 2nd mate and/or the boatswain informed the bridge continuously about the situation on the car deck.
Simultaneously the engine crew was working on the starboard stabiliser fin and sledge hammer noises were heard all the time. A further consequence of the vessel pitching against high seas from forward was the load increase on the visor attachments which had already been increased by about 150 ts of water moving forward/aft and side to side inside the visor. This caused the failure of the starboard visor hinge followed by the failure of the starboard side lock of the visor. - See the drawings on page 1062. Both components were considerably pre-damaged - see Subchapters 12.4.3/12.5 and Chapters 29/30 - and the load carrying capacity was substantially reduced. See also Subchapter 34.4. The Atlantic lock remained intact for the time being.
1. The crew members went on the forecastle deck through the door on deck 5 andtried to heave the rope holding the bow ramp which failed probably due to the green water taken on the forecastle deck.
2. The bow was held by the actuators and lowered down inside the visor.
3. The crew somehow managed to start the hydraulic pumps under extremely difficult conditions due to the water on the deck and the moving cars.
4.The substantially pre-damaged STB . Visor hinges failed followed by the equally pre- damaged STB side lock.5. The starboard side of the visor moved forward, the lugs cut through the deck plating and struck against the deck beam aft frame 159, the visor was pushed back when the vessel was diving into the next wave trough causing the broken visor hinge parts to smash against the hinge parts on the forecastle deck.
The starboard side of the visor was 5-7 cm moving forward/aft between the deck beam at frame 159 and the hinge parts on forecastle deck which created the heavy metallic banging noises scaring many passengers. The lug plates underneath the starboard visor arm came in contact with the adjacent plating and sustained scoring marks on the inside and on the outside because the vessel was only slightly heeled to starboard, still pitching in head seas and only slightly rolling. The port visor hinges remained intact for the time being.
Due to the disappearing hydraulic pressure the bow ramp was lowering down into the visor and was resting on the vertical beam of the inner visor structure with the centre flap in between.
After some minutes apparently also the port hinges failed and the whole visor was now moving forward/aft between the deck beam at frame 159 and the hinge parts on the forecastle deck.
The now prevailing situation is illustrated by the drawings on the following pages. The dynamic forces created by the deep pitch movements of the vessel in combination with the movement of the big water quantity inside the visor and the weight of the visor finally resulted in the lug plates underneath the visor arm to cut through the deck beam at frame 159.
2. Simultaneously hard scraping noises were caused by the upper flaps
of the ramp scraping along the vertical beam inside the visor due to the movements in the sea
2. Visor moving forward /aft between the deck beam at the frame 159 and the forecastle deck parts of the hinges, the lugs underneath the visor arms were cutting through the deck beam.
3. The bow was deeply diving into wave troughs and the stern rising high up while the whole vessel was shivering.
4.The crew still working on the car deck.
1.Hard metallic banging/knocking and scraping noises.
2.Crew tried to hold the visor by means of the hydraulic actuators (1) and the bow ramp by ropes (5)
3.The port actuator was torn off its foundation on B-deck.(2)
4.Deep contact marks occured on the visor lug plates port inside/ starboard inside and outside. (3+4)
5.The vessel was slowly turned further to port and stated to pitch and to roll.
6.The crew abandoned the attempts to hold the visor close to the bow ramp and rushed up to deck 7. The ropes remained around the bow ramp and on the winch drums on the forecastle deck.
The lugs quickly cut through the deck plating still giving the visor support against the increasing heel to starboard which had caused the centre of gravity of the visor to shift from ahead to starboard. The subsequently developing situation which finally led to the sinking of the ESTONIA stern first and completely upside down is demonstrated by the following drawings with explanatory comments.
At 01.53 hours the radar echo of the ESTONIA disappeared from the radar screen of the nearest ferry MARIELLA. The biggest shipping catastrophe in Northern Europe after the World War II was a fact.
Note: Behind the drawings the sequence-of-events according to the summary of the witnesses' statements and the evaluation of the damages to the wreck and visor is shown on 20 pictures taken of a damage model.
1. The visor lugs finally cut through the deck beam and the visor moved forward, the forepeak deck penetrated the visor bottom.
2. The vessel was now more rolling than pitching.
3.The ramp was inside the visor while the visor moved forward.
1. Vessel rolling more to starboard/less to port .
2. Visor lugs broke through the front bulkheads and did not support the visor anymore against moving towards the deeper starboard side (1)
3.With a big crash the visor fell abruptly about 10 cm to starboard until the inner port bulkhead was resting on the upper part of the bow ramp (2).
4. The visor was now extending the starboard front bulkhead of the vessel and the port front bulkhead was extending the visor.
5. The atlantic lock failed.
1. The vessel stopped abruptly. Water penetrated from O- deck under pressure.
2. The slow port turning increased rapidly while the vessel heeled wide over to starboard -ca 45o-50o , and came back to ca. 10o STB heel after the turning had stopped. The wind and waves now came from starboard abeam.
3. The heeling to STB increased stepwise with roll movements.
1.Approx 01.08-01.10 hrs the main engine shut-down automatically at a staboard heel of ca 30o.
2.The visor was held by the bow (3) ramp and by the forepeak deck increasingly penetrating the visor bottom (1)(2).
3.The intact starboard actuator was resisting the forward movement of the visor.
The visor moved further forward with the starboard actuator extending and the foepeak deck pressing into the visor bottom.
The strong ice plates supported the visor further from falling off to the starboard and the further the visor moved forward the deeper the forepeak deck pressed into the visor bottom .
1.After the vessel had stabilised for some time at a heel of about 40o-50o the heeling increased again.
2. The visor moved further forward and downwards and also the starboard actuator was torn off its foundation and broke through the front bulkhead as did the port one.
3.The port actuator was completely retracted while the starboard actuator was fully extended with the piston rod bent.
4.The visor was still hanging on the ramp and was still supported against falling off to starboard by the forepeak deck being pressed into the visor bottom.
The vessel was still rolling stepwise and the visor with the bow ramp inside was labouring up and down and from port to starboard in the seaway.
1. The port actuator broke through the front bulkhead, swung forward and got and crashed against the bow ramp
2.The structure of the ramp was continiously and very severely deformed by the heavy and changing weight of the visor.
1. The Vessel sank stern first.
2.The bow was still above water when the stern was already on the sea bottom.
3. The visor sank about 1nm west of the wreck upside down.