New series on Estonia shipwreck promises major revelation

Parvlaeva Estonia vöörivisiiri väljatõstmine merest 19. novembril 1994..

PHOTO: AFP / Scanpix.

The Discovery Channel that will air a new five-part documentary series on the MS Estonia shipwreck in the Nordic region on Monday promises that “a find that will change everything” will be revealed. The series will analyze the circumstances of the tragedy, the shipwreck itself, the reasons why ferry MS Estonia sank and reveal something previously unknown to the public.

“The documentary series is based on strong journalistic efforts during which we interviewed several initial sources with direct links to the Estonia disaster. Many of these sources have never told their story to the press before,” director Henrik Evertsson said.

In addition to interviews with relatives of victims and survivors, the series will bring to the viewer footage of dives to the wreck of MS Estonia.

“One thing our production crew did was film the wreck, especially parts of it that have not been documented before. The producers and Discovery Channel Norway weighed this decision carefully, both from an ethical and legal point of view,” Jessica Linnman, director of communications for Discovery Sweden said.

The sanctity of the gravesite agreement in place for the wreck makes this a sensitive issue, but the film crew found that it was journalistically justified to dive to the wreck using a robot.

Two members of the film crew prosecuted

Producer Hanne McBride did not comment on the contents of the documentary before its air date but confirmed that two members of the film crew have been prosecuted in Sweden for violating the sanctity of the gravesite agreement.

“I can say that the work of the film crew and the message of the series was ethically and legally analyzed before, during and after the dive. The people who have been charged have not violated the sanctity of the site,” she added.

The crew sent an underwater robot to film the wreck last year. The series promises to show footage of parts of the wreck never before documented.

The documentary series that is set to air next week also came up during Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas’ Tuesday meeting with his Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin and Swedish colleague Stefan Löfven.

“Yes, we also discussed the coming documentary. We decided that first we need to see what these new circumstances or footage reveal, if anything, and take any future steps together,” Ratas said on Thursday.

Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu refused to disclose what his Swedish colleagues showed him but said that the government that has until now been standoffish in terms of investigating the wreck could change its stance.

“It is a very serious and sensitive subject which the government will discuss in the near future. We have exchanged information with our Finnish and Swedish colleagues, and I believe that should there be decisions, the countries will reveal them simultaneously and in the near future,” Reinsalu said, not ruling out a new investigation.

Cause of the shipwreck to be sought

The international decision could be made as early as Monday. Member of the new MS Estonia investigative committee established early last year Margus Kurm will also say nothing before Monday.

Sworn lawyer Piret Blankin who has been representing the loved ones of Estonia victims for years said that the fact the wreck has been filmed is good.

“It would be unfair to the extreme should journalists or specialists who filmed the wreck be hit with criminal charges as their motive was to find out what caused the shipwreck. Their motives were true and justified,” Blankin said.

The passenger ferry MS Estonia sank near the island of Utö in the Baltic Sea on the night of September 28, 1994. On board were 989 people, 137 of whom were rescued while 852 perished. The investigative committee concluded that the shipwreck was caused by the ferry’s bow visor suffering storm damage that caused the hull to take on water.