Express Samina Disaster - Letter to minister of Greek government
I would like to thank you and your colleagues for the kindness shown to myself and my wife. I class myself as very fortunate to have met such kind and caring people.
Mr. Christos Papoutsis, Merchant Marine Minister of the Greek Government, The Parliament Building, Athens.
Dear Mr Papoutsis, We, the undersigned, members from amongst the UK resident survivors of the Express Samina tragedy, have chosen to write to you to ask for your assurance about various matters relating to the ongoing investigations into the sinking. We have chosen to make this letter public because, as we hope you will agree, the issues we mention here are relevant to many people besides ourselves. Before saying anything else, we would first of all like to offer our very deepest sympathy to the families of all those lost at sea in this tragedy which we, too, were unfortunate enough to be a part of. Writing from Britain, we find it very hard to keep fully informed of all developments in the ongoing legal cases and investigations which are now occurring in Greece concerning the Express Samina disaster.
Nevertheless, we wish to write to you because of our concern that all the investigations and cases which we are aware of are reported in the press as continuing to concentrate mainly on the state of repair of the ferry and of its equipment. We are therefore writing to you with great concern to seek your assurance that the matter of the level of safety training of the crew and of the emergency procedures carried out on board the ship during the night of the crash will be fully investigated.
We are most concerned to raise this issue because we are all quite certain that the ship was not correctly evacuated. We are certain that there was no public order to evacuate the ship given in any language at any time. Many of us were on or near the main metal emergency lifeboats. None of us saw any crew members attempt to launch any of these; some among our number were eventually involved in attempting to launch these ourselves. We all feel quite certain that from the moment the ship hit the Portes rock, we, and all our fellow passengers, from your nation as well as ours, were left to our own devices - we had to make our own decisions as events unfolded around us, as to whether, when and how to get off the sinking ship and into the stormy waters around us.
Many of us almost died in the process. We are sure that many of your countrymen - our fellow European citizens - did die precisely because there were no evacuation procedures in place on board that ship and no one to help them to evacuate it safely. It is our strong opinion that there was time to evacuate the ship on that night (to all of our recollections, it took approximately 45 to 50 minutes for the ship to sink completely, and moreover it remained at only a slight list for about 10 to 15 full minutes after the impact). It is also our strong opinion that had the ship been evacuated, the death toll - even given the awful weather conditions on the night - could have been far, far lower, even as low as single figures.
We have grouped together to write to you and try to raise these issues, because we feel that it will only be with the introduction and enforcement of genuine, effective evacuation procedures and safety training on your country's ferries that a similar death toll will be avoided in a future accident. We do have concerns about the state of the safety equipment, particularly the equipment inside the lifeboats, which did have an impact on our safety for those few of us who got a chance to see this. However, that is not the particular issue that we want to raise in this letter.
The majority of the passengers on that ship did not die because of the state of the safety equipment (the lifejackets did float, the lifeboats which were launched floated - that is what the equipment was required to do, at a bare minimum, and it did it). Most people died because no crew launched the lifeboats, and no crew showed passengers where to find the lifejackets. There were many, possibly hundreds, of unused lifejackets floating in the sea that night. There were unlaunched, usable lifeboats on the deck of the ship. There were also many people dying in that water with neither a lifejacket nor a lifeboat to protect them. We hope that you will understand our reasons for writing and would very much appreciate your assurance that the above issues will be fully investigated, and that if the matters that we believe were wanting are found to have been wanting, then effective changes will be made.
As we have no other forum for doing so, we would also like to express here our thanks to your fellow countrymen, the inhabitants of the island of Paros, whose incredibly courageous actions saved all of us and so very many other lives that night. We can only state again that we are all too aware that the accident did not affect only us, and that we wish to express our very deepest sympathies and affection to the families of the dead. Yours sincerely, Michael Beaton - Katrina Wallace - Nicola Gibson-Hoskins - Stephen Richards - Marianne Richards - Solomon Hagopian - Ribka Hagopian 20 January 2001.
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