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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Ferry fire victims not forgotten

Tuesday marked 25 years since the fatal fire on board the cruise-ferry Scandinavian Star, while it was sailing south from Oslo to Frederikshavn in Denmark. The fired killed 159 people, and they were being remembered on Tuesday by royalty, the prime minister and other top officials.

Queen Sonja was among those paying tribute Tuesday to victims of the 'Scandinavian Star' tragedy 25 years ago.  PHOTO:
Queen Sonja was among those paying tribute Tuesday to victims of the ‘Scandinavian Star’ tragedy 25 years ago. PHOTO: Scanpix

Queen Sonja, Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang and Denmark’s ambassador to Norway, Torben Brylle, were due to gather on the waterfront in downtown Oslo Tuesday evening to pay tribute to those who died in a case that has raised many unanswered questions. Their survivors may finally get some answers after Norway’s Parliament supported the establishment earlier this year of an independent commission to investigate the fire, which already has been ruled as arson.

Last year state prosecutor Tor-Aksel Busch went along with the Oslo police chief’s recommendation to reopen the investigation into the fire. The investigation then won majority support in Parliament as efforts continue to solve what newspaper Aftenposten described on Tuesday as possibly the worst criminal act in Norway’s post-war history.

That’s because of ongoing suspicions that the fire was set by someone trying to collect on the vessel’s insurance. Investigators at the time were unable to even determine who actually received a settlement, or how much. The ownership of the vessel was murky at best and Oslo’s police chief believes that evidence does not support charges filed against a Danish truck driver, who after the investigation in 1990 was singled out as the arsonist. Police Chief Hans Sverre Sjøvold also believes the possibility of an insurance swindle must be probed.

Busch also wants police to further investigate the sequence of events on board and how the fire was set, only to flare up again while the vessel was being towed to land at Lysekil in Sweden. The first fire was determined to have started at around 2am in the early hours of April 7, 1990. When it reignited half-a-day later, many wondered why and how it could burn so strongly.

As investigators tackle such questions, armed with better technology and the Parliament’s removal of a statute of limitations on murder after 25 years, hopes were rising that answers loom. On Tuesday, it was time to remember victims of the tragedy, and their survivors who are still struggling with it after a quarter-century. Berglund



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