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Swedish prosecutors receive request to reopen investigation into 1994 MS Estonia sinking

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By Matthew Holroyd
852 died when the MS Estonia sank in a storm in the Baltic Sea in September 1994.
852 died when the MS Estonia sank in a storm in the Baltic Sea in September 1994.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Jaakko Aiikainen, Lehtikuva
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Swedish authorities say they need more information before reopening an investigation into the 1994 MS Estonia ferry disaster.

852 people were killed when the ferry sank in stormy weather in the Baltic Sea in the deadliest peacetime shipwreck in European waters.

Victims from 17 countries drowned in the disaster, while only 137 passengers and crew survived.

On Tuesday, Swedish prosecutors had received a request to reopen a preliminary investigation "due to new circumstances emerging".

The latest probe comes after new information about the sinking was released in a Discovery Network documentary in September.

An official investigation in 1997 concluded that the locking system of the ship's retractable ramp was defective, flooding the car deck and causing the vessel to roll over and sink on September 28, 1994.

The joint-report by Sweden, Estonia, and Finland rejected the theory that a hole in the vessel could have been caused by an explosion on board, or a collision with another ship.

But new documentary footage from the wreck site revealed previously undisclosed damage to the starboard side of the ferry's hull.

The images prompted some survivors and relatives of victims to demand a new thorough investigation.

However, a preliminary report published on the Estonian government website last month concluded that the newly-discovered damage was too small to have sunk the ship as quickly as it did.

"The findings cannot change the conclusions presented in the final report ... thus, further investigation for the reason for the sinking of MS Estonia does not seem reasonable."

A spokesperson for the Estonian government confirmed to Euronews that the draft report had no official status.

The Estonian Safety Investigation Bureau has initiated a preliminary assessment of the new information and requested assistance from corresponding authorities in Finland and Sweden.

"In order to further evaluate the relevance of the new film material and to compare it to the Joint Accident Investigation (JAIC) report, documents need to be acquired and further analysis conducted," the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority said in a statement.

The authority also said it needs surveys of the seabed conditions at the site and to make analyses of the ship's structure "to help determine the cause of the two new holes in the hull."

It added that investigators have been given the opportunity to review the unedited raw film material and have also inspected the ferry's bow visor in Sweden.

Relatives of the victims and survivors of the disaster have also met with investigators in recent weeks.

In 1995, the three countries agreed that the wreck is considered as a final place of rest for victims of the disaster, and must be respected.