In an article published on Thursday evening, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet said that the Finnish Accident Investigation Board (Otkes) had new, detailed information about a hole found in the hull of an Estonian passenger car ferry that sank in September 1994.
Read more: Aftonbladet: New detailed information about a hole found in Estonia in Finland
The magazine says it bases its information on documents from the Swedish Accident Investigation Board (SHK).
However, the Swedish and Estonian authorities did not comment to Aftonbladet on the information it received, nor did Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Otkes' director.
The video at the top of the article shows ISTV's documentary about the last moments of Estonia.
Nurmi, reached by IS on Friday, wonders about Aftonbladet's information.
In his own words, he has no idea where the magazine's claim about the new information held by the Finnish authorities comes from.
- Quite incomprehensible information.
Then they have that kind of perception, but we don’t have that kind of information, nor do the Swedes, Nurmi says.
He confirms that he received contact from Aftonbladet on Wednesday, but at the time he was not mentioned in the information allegedly found in the SHK documents.
Nurmi only read about it himself in a magazine article.
“Diving to the wreck is not even considered”
The article also states that the Swedish, Estonian and Finnish authorities, at least with these prospects, do not rule out the possibility of new dives on the Estonian wreck.
- That's not true, nonsense, Nurmi acknowledges the claim.
Estonian side hole in the picture taken from the Discovery channel documentary.Photo: Dplay
He recalls that legal diving to the wreck would require changes in the law in three countries.
All three countries have signed a grave peace agreement with Estonia.
- When it is said that diving is not excluded, it shows that their information is from somewhere other than SHK or us, Nurmi points out.
He also recalls that the issue of diving became clear already in the authorities' announcement a week ago.
- It has been agreed between the leadership of the investigating authorities of the three countries that this will respect the funeral and the legislation of all countries.
In Finnish, this means that in this context, diving to the wreck is not even considered, Nurmi explains.
Decision-making power among Estonians
Nurmi also emphasizes that no new investigation has been launched into Estonia's sinking.
This is a “preliminary assessment of previously unreported imagery”.
A hole in the side of Estonia, which rests at a depth of about 80 meters, was revealed at the end of September from videos shot with a robot camera by the Discovery Channel documentary group.
“Previously unreported imagery” refers to this imagery.
Estonia photographed before sinking.
The time the picture was taken is unknown.Image: REUTERS
As the accident took place in international waters and not in the territory of any country, the responsibility for the investigation and decision in the matter lies with the ship's flag state, in this case Estonia, according to international law.
- This preliminary assessment has been decided by the Estonian independent investigating authority OJK.
They have then asked Otkesi and SHK, the independent investigating authorities of Finland and Sweden, to assist them in this project.
According to Nurmi, the project led by the Estonians in practice compares the new visual material with the material of the original investigation.
The parties will then assess whether the comparison warrants further action.
- This group, on the other hand, does not decide on further action, but gives its recommendation to the Estonian Safety Investigation Authority, which has the decision in its hands, Nurmi says.
According to Aftonbladet's article, it is true that the project schedule is currently being prepared.
- In fact, this is where the meeting is about to begin.
"Let's take the time it takes"
As such, Nurmi considers it important that the new material is examined in a neutral and uncovered manner in the co-operation, after which some kind of conclusion is reached.
- It is essential that, in accordance with international rules of the game, the matter be dealt with by independent investigating authorities who consider this professionally.
Such actions are a matter for the independent investigating authority.
The photo of Estonia's rescue work on the island of Utö was taken on September 28, 1994. Photo: Kimmo Mäntylä / MAGAZINE
According to Nurmi, it is impossible to say anything about the schedules so far.
While it is typically possible to estimate the duration of an investigation, this time it is a “very atypical task”.
- There is no reason to delay at all, but there is no hurry either.
Here we take the time it takes for a good outcome to come and the matter to be looked at.
Smelling is of no help.
According to Nurmi, the schedules are also affected by the coronavirus situation, which makes it difficult for the authorities to travel between the three countries.
The existence of the hole has always been known to scientists
The document Estonia - A Revolutionary Discovery presented by the Dplay streaming service suggests that a hole in the hull of the ship could have been created by an external collision.
However, Tuomo Karppinen, a member of the Board of Inquiry into Estonia's sinking, told IS at the end of September that the hole had been talked about for at least twenty years.
Read more: Estonia researcher: The hole in the bottom of the ship has been talked about for at least twenty years, but it has not been found before
According to Karppinen, the wreck is known to have moved on the seabed, which is why the hole may have appeared.
He said it was clear from the beginning when investigating the accident that there was major damage on the side of the wreck that struck the seabed.
Estonia, on its way from Tallinn to Stockholm, sank south of the island of Utö, taking 852 people with it. The majority of those killed, 501 people, were Swedish citizens.