Thursday. 30.11.2023

The relatives of the victims of a 1994 Baltic Sea shipwreck are making arrangements to send their own expedition to investigate the ship's remains in the hope of finding answers about the accident.

A privately financed team of experts is set to visit the wreck of the Estonia on 18 September, according to a report in the Estonian newspaper Postimees on Wednesday.

"Now or never," said Raivo Hellerma of Memento Mare, a group of people who lost loved ones in the accident and which is sponsoring the expedition.

The private expedition will run in parallel to an official one being led by former Estonian prosecutor Margus Kurm.

"We're not looking for anyone responsible or trying to prove a theory. I just think that this is a unique opportunity to at least get some answers that we have here," said Hellerma.

Lennart Berglund of the Swedish victims and relatives group SEA said the probe is important to find the real reason for the sinking.

New evidence

The sinking of the Estonia is Europe's worst post-World War II maritime accident. It occurred on September 28, 1994, with 989 people on board. It was sailing from Tallinn to Stockholm and went down off the Finnish coast.

There were only 137 survivors, with 852 dead. An official report in 1997 said the accident was caused when the bow visor - a part on the front of the ship that can be lifted to allow cars to be driven into the hold - was ripped off.

But doubts remain about that explanation and survivors have demanded renewed investigations, demands which grew stronger after documentary film makers sent a submersible robot to the wreckage last year, which came back with footage showing holes near the ship's rear.

Loved ones of 1994 Estonia shipwreck planning private probe