Explosion ruled out in Estonia probe

An Estonian team probing the sinking of a passenger ferry 12-and-a-half years ago, which claimed 852 lives, said Thursday it had no evidence to show the accident was caused by an explosion.

“An explosion on board the ferry can be ruled out, based on the findings of the commission,” Estonian Justice Minister Rein Lang told reporters as he commented on a report by a government commission probing the Baltic country’s worst maritime acident.

The Estonia ferry sank on the night of September 28, 1994, as it made the crossing from Tallinn to Stockholm. All but 137 of the 989 passengers and crew on board perished in the accident.

An international probe team determined in 1997 that faulty bow doors that gave way in stormy weather had caused the accident, the worst in the Baltic Sea in peace time.

But both Estonia and Sweden opened new investigations two years ago after many relatives of the dead, shipping experts and politicians claimed the Estonia went down after an explosion on board.

An admission by Sweden that Russian military equipment had been transported on board the ferry on at least two occasions in 1994 gave credence to the explosion theory.

But the report issued Thursday said that chemical analyses have turned up nothing to indicate there had been an explosion.

Also Thursday, the Estonian government extended the mandate of the probe commission by six months, until October 15, to allow it to clear up still unclear issues, including why the ferry went down so quickly.