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Estonia: Sunk due to n-cargo?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(May 17, 1996) The ferry Estonia sank on 28 September 1994 between Tallinn, Estonia, and Stockholm, Sweden. In the disaster, 852 passengers and crew members lost their lives. Seven hundred bodies still remain in the boat. Beginning in mid-April 1996, a concrete gravestone (another kind of sarcophagus) has been laid over the ship.

(452.4471) WISE-Amsterdam - Reporter Maarten Rabaey from the Belgian newspaper De Morgen comes up with an interesting story on the real cause of the sinking of the ferry. He narrates the story of Werner Hummel, an expert of the company which constructed the Estonia, Meyer-Werft. According to Hummel, the encapsulation of the boat with concrete has started way too soon. His recent findings are very intriguing: during the fatal journey, the bowdoors of the Estonia had been opened to throw two lorries with contraband cargo, which included radioactive material, overboard.

It has been established that the Estonia sank after a bowdoor broke off, but how this happened exactly is unclear until today. Swedish experts stated that "a giant wave" was the culprit. German experts originally conformed with this theory. Until December last year. Hummel: "Then we set eyes upon the translation of the so-called Felix Report. This report was named after Felix Dzerdzinski - the founder of the KGB (and its forerunners NKVD and Cheka), the former secret service of the Soviet Union. Former members of this organization revealed their findings about organized crime in the Baltic states in an 85-page report commissioned by the Russian government. The report already dates from March last year and was passed on to the local authorities, and then translated. Two pages of it are on the Estonia disaster. This theory was so fantastic that we didn't believe it in the beginning."

According to the report, the Estonia was a crucial link in an enormous smuggling operation from the Baltic states to Western Europe. On the night of the disaster, the ferry had contraband cargo on board, including a huge amount of heroin and forty metric tonnes (40,000 kg) of radioactive cobalt and some osmium.

The captain of the Estonia, Arvo Andresson, reportedly was aware of the smuggling but did not know exactly what was on board. He was reportedly told during the journey by a certain "Yuri" - named in the report as the contact person of the smugglers in Tallinn - that the Swedish Customs had been tipped. (The Swedish deny this.) "Yuri" threatened the captain with death and ordered him to throw the contraband cargo overboard. The cargo was on two lorries; thus, there was only one way to get rid of it: through the opened bowdoor.

According to the report, there was a key witness - someone named Igor Kristapowich - who had recorded the incriminating telephone call of Yuri to the captain. After the disaster, Kristapowich was found murdered in Talinn. He was murdered, says the report, because of this knowledge and his involvement in the smuggling. Not a single trace of the sound recording has ever been found. "Therefore nobody believed in this theory," expert Hummel says. Until February.

"We got a letter from an Estonian officer who claimed he knew much more 'about the real cause'," Hummel says. "I visited him in Helsinki. He had gone after the Felix Report on his own and he came up with a coherent story." According to the officer some members of the staff of the Estonian army were involved in the smuggling operation on the Estonia, among them a certain General Einseln. Einseln, a former US officer who had returned to his native land, Estonia, had to resign last year after being accused of arms smuggling.

Hummel compared the contraband cargo theory with statements right after the accident from eyewitnesses. He found astonishing congruences. Several witnesses heard sounds of the opening of the bowdoors and engines just before the accident. The captain was definitely not on the bridge during the accident; his voice was not on the Mayday recordings. He could very well have been at the fore coordinating the operation. A Latvian policeman on board stated immediately after he was rescued that he saw the bowdoors move just before the accident.

According to Hummel, the hasty burial of the ferry is very unusual. Neither the company which constructed the Estonia, nor the relatives nor the Swedish parliament wanted this. But covering a ship with concrete is of course an ideal way to prevent radioactivity from leaking. Hummel claims that the plausibility of the contraband cargo theory has increased due to information received from unnamed sources in St. Petersburg and Tallinn.

Source: De Morgen (Belgium), 27 April 1996