Danish lawmakers plan new investigation into 1990 ferry disaster, with focus on insurance


COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Danish lawmakers agreed on Wednesday to set up a task force to investigate the 1990 ferry fire that killed 159 people, which could lead to a new police investigation into one of the worst maritime disasters in peacetime in Scandinavia.

Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup said the working group would focus on the owner and insurance of the vessel. The Social Democratic government said in a statement that “we owe it not only to the victims, but also to the survivors, who to this day continue to be left unanswered.”

Haekkerup added that the aim is to find out “if there are reasons for the police to open a more thorough investigation”.

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The Scandinavian Star was engulfed in flames during an overnight race from the Norwegian capital Oslo to Frederikshavn in northern Denmark. Many of the passengers, mostly Norwegians, died huddled together in cabins or trapped in hallways.

Norwegian police initially concluded that the fire started around 2 a.m. on April 7, 1990, and was likely started by a 37-year-old Danish truck driver who died in the blaze. The ferry is believed to be carrying 395 passengers and 97 crew.

A subsequent investigation determined that there were several separate fires and that it would have taken several people to start them. Relatives claimed the fire was started by crew members and the motive was insurance fraud. The ship was reportedly insured for double its value shortly before the fire broke out.

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In 2014, the investigation was reopened and the Danish truck driver – who had already been convicted of arson three times – was posthumously cleared of starting the fire.

The first report concluded that the 20-year-old Bahamian-registered ferry was unfit to navigate. A Danish shipper took over the Scandinavian Star ferry on March 30 and set off on its new route two days later with a new crew. The report also concluded that the ferry’s fire alarms were difficult to hear, that the crew had not received safety training and that the captain abandoned the vessel when he should have been in charge of operations. rescue on board. Safety equipment such as sprinklers, which could have prevented the disaster, were missing.

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The owner has since died and the company that operated the ferry no longer exists.

Photograph: The Danish Parliament is located at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen.

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