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The sinking of M/V Estonia: An archival study of the survivors’ witness reports

Journal article
Authors Emma Roos Af Hjelmsäter
Lisa Öhman
Pär-Anders Granhag
Published in Nordic Psychology
Volume 68
Issue 4
Pages 244-256
ISSN 1901-2276
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 244-256
Language en
Keywords archival study, eyewitness testimony, traumatic event, memory, accident investigation
Subject categories Applied Psychology


Most previous eyewitness research has been experimental, and studies examining real events are few. The present study examined eyewitness reports from a real-life, extremely stressful event; the sinking of the passenger ship Estonia in 1994. We analysed the police reports from 131 survivors (age 12–72, 82% men) through a thematic analysis. The results showed that of what could be controlled, most reports were accurate. Thus, this study indicates that eyewitness reports from such a life-threatening event may be reliable. Also, as in previous studies, many reports were fragmentary or incomplete. However, as the survivors reported different aspects, it was possible to obtain more complete information about the event by adding together reports from several persons. This indicates that reports from several persons should be collected in order to achieve a full understanding of events like this. The results provide much needed archival research to complement experimental studies on witnesses’ memory performance.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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