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Welcome to a chapter of the e-book Disaster Investigation.

2.2 The Events during the Accident 28 September 1994




Interpretation and notes


about 00.55 hrs

Speed 15 knots. Westerly course between Estonia and Sweden. Wind SW Beaufort 7. Permanent heel 1 degree to starboard and slight stern trim. The weather was not very bad. Waves average 4 meters high. Several passengers noted and/or were awoken by two severe bangs with 30-60 seconds interval and some passengers started to leave their cabins on deck 1. The speed may have been reduced. Maybe the bridge alarmed the crew and all officers mustered on the bridge. Ship started to trim on the bow.

The cause of the sudden 'bangs' has never been explained. The vessel could have collided with something in the water or something was damaged below the waterline causing a serious leak. One compartment on deck 0 started to be flooded, which was probably noted by Linde, if it were the sauna/poop compartment, or by 3/E Treu, f it were in the engine rooms. Sillaste was called down to assist stopping the leak. The inflow may have been 1.0-1.5 m3/s. The statement by Linde that the car deck was dry at this time and that the innner ramp was tight are not correct. There was a small leak at the ramp of little importance. The Commission has never examined the hull deck 0 for any hull damages, e.g. a fracture i.w.o. the sauna/pool compartment or at the starboard stabilizer.

No alarm is given to passengers!


00.56 hrs

Several passengers noted that the ferry moved differently - slower rollings.

The water on deck 0 had reduced G0M, which increased the period of roll 2.16.


00.57 hrs

Several passengers saw water on deck 1 center corridor and on the starboard side and started to evacuate deck 1. One passenger from deck 1 may have alerted the information desk on deck 5, which in turn called the bridge, which ordered the matter to be investigated.

The compartment on deck 0 was now almost full and water spilled out on deck 1, when the ship was rolling. The bridge must have ordered the engine control room (3/E Treu) to start the bilge pumps. The bridge thougth that all watertight doors were closed as the indication was green.

No alarm is given to passengers!


01.00 hrs

The watertight doors on deck 1 were open. Some passengers thought that the starboard heel had increased a little. Water on deck 0 flowed aft. The trim became even.
Many passengers on deck 1 rushed upwards in the stairwells, when ...

The bridge may have opened two watertight doors by mistake, or the damage in the hull developed forward/aft due to internal pressure on the bulkheads of the sauna compartment. The water spread now into a least three compartments on deck 0 and the initial stability - G0M - was quickly reduced to nil. Note that the Commission has not examined the compartments on deck 0, 1.16 (xii), where the leak and damages are supposed to be.

Still no alarm is given to passengers!


01.02-05 hrs

Suddenly the ferry heeled >30 degrees to starboard but uprighted and was stable again at about 15 degrees list - later the permanent list increased jerkily. Most survivors noted this. Passengers and crew escaped to open deck 7 but had great difficulties to walk on the sloping decks in corridors and inside stairwells to reach the stairs. But passengers from deck 1 were already inside the stairwell at deck 4 and informed e.g. Linde that it was water on deck 1.

Panic on board. Water inside the ship on deck 0 had now reduced the G0M to < 0 and it caused the sudden listing (maybe the empty starboard heeling tank had also been flooded) and it caused the sudden listing. Then the ferry found a new equilibrium at 15 degrees angle of list. The inflow of water continued causing progressive flooding and increased list. At >15 degrees list it was very difficult to walk on the decks, but as the ship was rolling slowly, passengers could escape, when the ship rolled to port. The watertight doors were open.

No alarm is given to passengers!


01.03 hrs

The crew on the bridge may have hanged on to the consoles and turned the ferry to port into the wind, but did not slow down.

The lost Utö plot should be able to tell what actually happened.


01.05 hrs

The bridge must have been aware that the 'Estonia' was leaking and had started the bilge pumps 1.3.

Sillaste has stated several times that the bilge pumps were on. Passengers started to reach deck 7 port side.


01.10 hrs

Water started to enter on deck 4 starboard side – the windows there were broken when they came under water. The port propeller and rudder was above waterline and the port engines stopped automatically.

The angle of list was still 15-20 degrees and it was still possible to get out, when the ship rolled to port. Maybe 100-150 or more persons had reached deck 7 port side. The vessel was at this time apparently heading East (!) because the starboard side (underwater) was facing the waves coming from South-West, i.e. it seems the vessel had turned 180° to East assuming that it had a Westerly course prior to the accident. It is possible that the ship had stopped and turned earlier since 00.55 hrs.

Maybe the 'häire, häire' alarm is given to passengers at this time over the public address system! But no life boat alarm is ever given.


01.16 hrs

Starboard engines stopped when the lub.oil pumps sucked air. Water started to enter on deck 5 starboard side, when the windows there became under water. The visor was ripped away, when its flat starboard side hit the waves. The visor may have fallen off at the official position (unlikely), but it may also have been hanging on the starboard side (more likely). The ship was un-steerable. The ship was 1,5 mile off course. Speed was reduced.

The angle of list was about 30 degrees. More than 1.500 tons of water had leaked in but the car deck/superstructure was still virtually dry. The sloping side of the visor was parallel with the sea, the speed was about 6 knots, the course was about 135° with waves on the starboard bow. The visor starboard side was subject to an impact load, when it hit the sea. The port side lock visor plate sheared off 2.8 and 2.15 sideway. The port hinge may have been broken, but the visor was still attached to the ship by the starboard hinge and ropes attached at port. Maybe 300-400 persons had got out on deck 7.


01.20 hrs

Deck 4 aft was under water on starboard side when the ship rolled into the on-coming waves (this part was heading into waves and winds) and water started to flood the car deck from above via the ventilators on deck 4. Vessel started to trim on the stern!

The angle of list was about 45 degrees. The speed had been reduced to 1,5 knots. It was no longer possible to escape from inside the ship.


01.22-24-30 hrs

Deck 7 starboard side was starting to come under water and persons there jumped into the water. On port side some life rafts were inflated by the crew on the ship's side. Mayday was sent. A position was given via VHF figur 2.26. The speed was virtually nil - the ship was drifting. Trim on the stern increased.

The angle of list was 65-70 degrees increasing to 90 degrees at 01.30 hrs. Persons on deck 7 climb out on the ship's port side. The position was wrong! Sillaste and Kadak stated that they left the ECR at this time 1.48, but it is not a true statement. They must have left much earlier - say 01.05 hrs - when they realized that the water in the engine rooms could not be pumped out by the bilge pumps ... and that the vessel was doomed.


01.30 hrs

The ferry drifted slowly, <0,5 knots. The Mayday was terminated abrubtly. Water was entering the bridge. Linde was in a life raft together with Sillaste and Kadak and saw the bow ramp closed. The stern was under water.

3/E Treu states he left the ECR at this time, which is not possible as the ship sank a few minutes later. Passengers on port side started to jump into the water. Some passengers rushed forward - afraid of jumping into the water.


01.32 hrs

The stern hits bottom at 75 meters depth - the ship could not drift any longer.

Fore ship sticking up above the water. Angle of list >90 degrees. The visor could have slipped over the ramp without touching it, but ...


01.35 hrs

The clock on the bridge stopped.

... the visor was still attached to the bow superstructure starboard side.


01.36 hrs

The ferry sank. The mate on the 'Mariella' saw the 'Estonia' radar echo disappear.

 The mate on the 'Mariella' had seen 'Estonia' on his radar since 22.00 hrs slightly ahead of 'Mariella' - same speed, same course to Sweden.

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