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MS Estonia: Europe's worst shipping disaster 'caused by Baltic submarine collision'

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Sweden's King Carl VXI Gustaf pictured in 2014 at a memorial to the MS Estonia disaster. 501 Swedes were among those who drowned when the ship sank in 1994
Sweden's King Carl VXI Gustaf pictured in 2014 at a memorial to the MS Estonia disaster. 501 Swedes were among those who drowned when the ship sank in 1994   -   Copyright  Claudio Bresciani/AP
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The 1994 sinking of an Estonian cruise ship in which 852 people drowned may have been caused by a collision with a submarine, a documentary team has suggested.

The programme's makers said a remote-controlled probe they sent to explore the wreckage of the MS Estonia had spotted a previously unknown hole in the hull that is four metres high and 1.2 metres wide at its widest point.

Their findings were streamed this week in the Discovery documentary “Estonia: The Find That Changes Everything”, in which experts said the rupture could only have been caused by a massive external force.

Only 137 of the 989 people who were on board the ferry survived when it sank in international waters off Finland early on September 28, 1994. It remains Europe’s worst peacetime shipping disaster.

The foreign ministers of Estonia, Finland and Sweden said in a statement that they will jointly assess the new information presented by the documentary.

But Margus Kurm, who led the Estonian government committee investigating the disaster, said a collision with a submarine was “the most likely cause”.

He added that the newly-discovered hole was unlikely to have been caused by an underwater rock or cliff that the passenger and car ferry struck as it sank to the seabed.

“The section where the damage was found has never touched the seabed,” Kurm told Estonian state broadcaster ETV.

“The position that [MS] Estonia is in post-accident was documented during dives conducted in 1994.”

The original inquiry into the MS Estonia disaster concluded that it was caused by the bow door of the ship being wrenched open and allowing water to flood into the car deck.

The ship was en route to Stockholm from Tallinn when it sank.

Passengers from 17 countries drowned in the disaster, including 501 Swedes and 285 Estonians.

Many bodies remain unrecovered in the wreck and exploratory diving was banned at the site under a 1995 agreement signed by the governments of Estonia, Finland and Sweden.

But the documentary makers are understood to have used a German-flagged vessel to explore the wreck.

WATCH: Documentary director Henrik Evertsson says it was an " essential and journalistically important" to send a camera down to the wreck: