A survivor's story from MS Estonia
On a cold night in september the "Estonia" a 20.300 ton passenger vessel left
the port of Tallinn enroute for Stockholm. It was a stormy night. On board were 1.054
passengers and crew.
Around 12 AM many passengers heard terrible noises from the cargo deck. Some passengers
were in the restaurants and most of the young couples and teens were in the disco, but the
main part of the families were already asleep.
20 minutes later the ship started listing, heavily! In the bar where I worked, the bottles
and glasses started to fall of the tables, and a TV set fell off the wall and smashed into
a couple that was sitting underneath it. The passengers started to move out into the open
decks as the ship listed more and more and the sounds of falling furniture and screaming
people got louder and louder.
I tried to call the bridge, but there was no answer, and no alarms
were sounding, 5-10 minutes later the ship was listing so much that the water started to
climb above the windows of the 6th floor. I was in the main staircase and tried to get
some clue as to what was happening. There were a lot of passengers trying to get up to the
boat deck. I saw a woman falling from the stairs below and nobody tried to help. Everybody
was just climbing on top of everyone else to get up as fast as possible.The sounds of
people screaming, falling objects and breaking glass was terrible! Now the ship was
listing so much that the railing touched the water. I was still in the main staircase with
some other crewmembers were we tried to help as much as we could. Suddenly a Coke-machine
fell from the upper case and into stairs below and fell onto some people. It crushed a
young girl, and nobody could help.
At this point my colleague screamed at me: "We'd better get the hellout of
The lights flickered and went out and the only light left was the emergency lights. We
smashed a window with an axe and climbed out, helping three or four others with us. We
were now standing on top of the vessel, that is on the side. We could look into the
windows of the cabins, fortunately there was no light, so we couldn't see the people
When the ship sank even more, it listed with the front down, we walked directly of the
side and into the cold water. The waves was covering the ship as we swam in the water just
looking at this huge vessels sinking; the stern lifted in the air, just like the Titanic,
and then sank quickly.
There was an explosion or two and then silence until we could hear the screams for help of
many people in the water. These screams is something that will haunt me for ever.
We were lucky to get into a life raft; the ship had automated life rafts that inflate and
surface when the ship sinks, but it was so cold, and there was lots of water in the raft
as well. We knew from our training that hypothermia was our worst enemy so we tried to sit
together with 11-12 other people in the raft.
We sat there for hours until rescue helicopters came and started to pick up the survivors,
in our raft only 8 people made it. We had to warm ourself with the small amount of heat
left in the bodies. That's one thing that I'll never forget.
When the helicopter arrived at our raft they had a news crew on board and they started
filming us, before they even tried to rescue us. This resulted in another passenger, that,
when he entered the helicopter, hit the cameraman right in the face!
The helicopter took us on board a swedish cruise ship, the 80.000 tons "Silja
Symphony" and then to the island of ï¿½land. We were hospitalized for a few days,
before we returned to Sweden.
917 people went down with the MS Estonia, 137 survived and she sank in less than 25
minutes because of a fault in the locks of the bowport. The locks failed and the bow fell
of the vessel, giving free access to the cargo decks that quickly filled with water.
Recent explorations of the wreck site has found the "MS Estonia" lying on the
side 240 feet down. Divers have found 125 bodies in the restaurants and bars, and about
600 are still in their cabins; whole families are buried down there.
This is the worst disaster in the history of Scandinavia, and nobody responsible survived.
All officers and the captain are still on the bridge, their bodies were found when divers
entered to get the watertight computer tapes that were located on the bridge. The final
report on the loss of the MS Estonia has recently been released for public viewing, but
gives no answers to the many questions.
I hope this gives you an idea of what it was like, and I belive it was like this on the RMS