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8.7 Condition of the interior

The interior of the vessel had suffered considerable damage caused by her turning over and by the rapid inflow of water during the sinking. Only part of the interior was, however, inspected during the diver investigation.
All loose equipment had slid down to the starboard side of the respective areas and collected there together with various debris. Ceiling panels and parts of the interior had likewise broken loose and collected along the starboard side. In the forward half of the accommodation decks the interior bulkheads and ceiling had been less damaged and many cabin doors remained closed.
The car deck was not surveyed due to the hazards related to divers working in the area. It is therefore not known whether the lashings had been able to restrain trucks.

8.8 Observations on the navigation bridge

The bridge, which was on deck 9, was entered by the divers mainly to collect instruments and other material for the accident investigation and to determine the status of instruments and controls. The inspection of the bridge was difficult due to poor visibility, the considerable vertical depth inside the bridge in the turned-over condition and the absence of items the divers could climb on. During this inspection the divers saw three bodies. One was near the door to the open deck and one in the chart room. The third body was seen on the starboard side bridge wing by a diver who tumbled down to the wing and accidentally came across the body.
A large amount of equipment had fallen down to the starboard side bridge wing, which was crushed against the seabed. The bridge wing could not be inspected due to mud and accumulation of debris, and for reasons of safety.
On the port bridge wing manoeuvre console the control lever for the port engine was found in full astern position and the lever for the starboard engine in 10 to 20 % forward position. The corresponding pitch indicators both indicated 100 % forward pitch. On the main manoeuvre console the port engine control lever was in about 50 % astern position and the starboard lever in 95 % astern position, both pitch indicators indicating between 50 and 55 % forward pitch. According to information from KAMEWA AB, the supplier, the pitch indicators should all irrespective of the actual pitch return to zero in case of electric power failure.
The navigation computer containing a data logging function with possible detailed information about the last part of the voyage could not be found. A GPS receiver was recovered, but no information could be retrieved from it. No other information could be retrieved from the navigation and operations equipment.
The radio station clock in the chart room showed 2335 UTC. Another bulkhead- mounted clock in the aft part of the bridge showed 0212 hrs.
The EPIRB beacon cages were traced on top of the bridge and one was recovered. They were both open and empty.

8.9 Victims

A total of 852 persons lost their lives in the accident. Of them one died in hospital and 92 were found in the water and in liferafts during the rescue operation and the following days. No victims were found on the seabed surrounding the wreck or on the external areas of the wreck during the diving survey. Two bodies have subsequently been found in the area of the Gulf of Finland, one in the open sea and one on the shorelines of Estonia. Still missing are 757 persons.
The survey of the interior was only partial and essentially limited to public areas and cabins along the port side of the wreck. About 130 victims, including those on the bridge, were observed in different areas. Many victims in various localities had lifejackets on. The parts of the ship inspected by the divers and the locations where victims were seen are shown in Figure 8.27.

Figure 8.27 Divers’ sightings of victims. Green colours indicates divers’ movements and inspection of interior from outside through windows and from inside. Red circles and ovals show approximate locations where victims were sighted. White figures indicate numbers of victims at each location. White ‘X’s indicate unspecified numbers of victims, e.g. where doorways were blocked, preventing divers from entering.

Click image(s) for close-up

Click image(s) for close-up

On deck 8 the port aft cabins, the port aft passage and the aft part of the officers' mess were examined. No victims were seen, but most of the interior, including cabins and partitions had collapsed making visibility poor.
On deck 7 the cabins on the port side in the midship section were inspected through the windows. Visibility was limited due to floating debris but twelve victims were seen in four cabins. The main staircase, parts of the starboard corridor in the midship section and the aft staircase were inspected from inside. The starboard side of the main staircase was blocked by debris, making inspection impossible, but ropes were found hanging down, fastened on the outer deck 7. One victim was found in the main staircase. One starboard cabin was inspected and found empty. In the aft staircase, a lifeboat ladder was hanging down from deck 7 to deck 6.
On deck 6, the forwardmost port stairwell was inspected and contained many bodies. The entire starboard side of this staircase was full of debris. Six victims were found in the port side corridor in the forward section and in the transverse corridor. In seven cabins, inspected in this area, no victims were found. Two victims were found in the dance saloon near the stage and another nine in the Baltic Bar. Piles of debris made inspection of the starboard side impossible. In the main staircase no victims could be seen but much debris had piled up on the starboard side. The aft staircase and the adjacent lounge were inspected. In the lounge three victims were found and another five close to the staircase. Four cabins were inspected from the outside and revealed no victims.
On deck 5, the forwardmost port staircase was inspected through the windows and contained many victims also at this level. The corresponding staircase on the starboard side was also inspected and found empty. The adjacent cabins and corridors were also empty. All outside cabins in the port forward section were inspected through the windows. None of these appeared to contain any victims although visibility was poor due to floating debris. In the corridor outside these cabins, however, eight victims were seen. The divers also entered the shopping area amidships. Much merchandise had piled up or was floating and three victims were seen in the limited area that could be inspected. The staircase and adjacent hall aft were also inspected. Two victims were found but the collapse of the deck head linings made further inspection impossible. The cafeteria was inspected from the windows aft and from inside on the port side and two victims were seen.
On deck 4, divers inspected localities through all windows on the port side. Visibility was sometimes poor but three victims could be seen inside cabins and one in the night club. Two forward cabins in this area, one outside and one inside, contained two and three victims, respectively, and in the corridor were another three. In the main staircase the divers counted 35 victims but they stated that the actual number of victims in the area was much higher.
On deck 1 the divers entered ten cabins in the foremost part of the cabin department. No victims were found and the cabins seemed to have been unoccupied. Further aft two victims were seen in a corridor and in six inspected cabins in this area a total of four victims were seen in three of the cabins.

8.10 Life-saving equipment

After the accident, lifeboats, liferafts and lifejackets from the ESTONIA drifted towards the Estonian coast in an east-south-easterly direction and were recovered by vessels and by people on shore.
One lifeboat was observed on the wreck, still attached to its davits. The other nine lifeboats were detached and have been recovered from the sea. However, only two small pieces were found from one of them. The man-over-board boat (MOB) was found drifting outside Hanko on the Finnish coast.
Of the liferafts, 52 of the 63 have been found. Two of them were not inflated. One raft was found by a Russian helicopter, 21 were found on the Estonian coast and the rest were recovered by vessels in the area.
Ten rafts that belonged to vessels participating in the search and rescue operation were found as well as three launched by Swedish rescue helicopters. Also a Russian-manufactured raft, used for training on board the ESTONIA, was recovered.
It has not in general been possible to determine which rafts were used by survivors or victims of the accident.
Technical experts from the Finnish police have examined all recovered life-saving equipment and found some damage. In particular with reference to the liferafts, it should be recalled that part of the observed damage was most likely caused when the equipment was recovered by vessels or washed ashore.

8.11 The EPIRB beacons

The EPIRB beacons along with some liferafts and lifejackets were found on 2 October 1994 by two Estonian fishing vessels in the vicinity of Dirhami on the north coast of Estonia. The beacons were switched off when found.
On 28 December 1994 the condition of the above EPIRBs was tested by the Finnish experts. The radio beacons proved to be in full working order when switched on.
On 24 January 1995 both EPIRBs were activated on board the Estonian icebreaker TARMO, when they worked without interval for four hours. According to the Russian COSPAS Mission control centre, whose area of responsibility includes the Estonian waters, the radio beacons were transmitting the signal in the normal way throughout the test period.

8.12 Other observations

The propellers were observed to be in almost zero pitch position and the rudders in hard starboard position. The only watertight door on deck 1 which the divers were able to inspect was closed.
The eye bolts of the manual visor locks were in open position according to the ROV survey. The lugs of the manual lock on the starboard side of the visor were heavily twisted due to a blow to the front bulkhead of the vessel.
Certain discrepancies were noted between the structure of the visor as recovered and manufacturing drawings. These included:
Absence of two longitudinal flat bars and related transverse brackets on the visor bottom plating. No signs of such flat bars having been installed could be seen.
The lowest bow band to the stem plating was welded only from above (area affected by ice damage repair).
One bracket at the aft bulkhead on the port side and between stringers 2 and 3 had been replaced, with defects in the new welding.
One bracket located where the aft bulkhead meets the shell and deck platings on the port side was missing, and cutting marks indicated it had been removed.
Lower edge of bottom lock mating lug differed from drawing shape by flame cutting of its forward corner.
The deck part of the installed hinge arrangement differeded considerably from the manufacturing drawing.
It was learned after the accident that a student working temporarily in an on-board maintenance team observed, but failed to report, in August 1994, some cracks in the fillet welds between the hinge beam side plates and the hinge bushings. The cracks were located in the lower section of the weld beads between the hinge beam side plates and the hinge bushings on the side facing the deck part of the hinge installation. One crack, about 100 mm long, and one shorter crack were observed in the starboard hinge lugs. One crack, about 60 mm long, was observed in one lug at the port side hinge. The cracks were in an area not visible when the visor was closed.
The Finnish police have taken several paint samples from inside the visor. TLC (thin layer chromatography), LC (liquid chromatography) and spot tests analysis of these revealed no vestiges of explosives.

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