Danish authorities re-open probe into deadly 1990 ferry fire

The Ro-Pax ferry Scandinavian Star in Sweden's Lysekil harbour in the days following the April 7, 1990 fire that killed 158 passengers and crew (Photo: Swedish National Maritime Museum)

The Danish government has said that it will set up an independent investigative task force to look into the ultimate cause of a passenger vessel fire that left over 150 people dead in 1990.

Representatives of the country’s parliament will collaborate with the justice ministry to re-examine the April 7, 1990 incident involving the Ro-Pax ferry Scandinavian Star.

At around 02:00 local time on the said date, multiple fires broke out on board the ferry while it was sailing off the Swedish coast between Denmark and Norway. A total of 158 passengers and crew were either burned to death or died of carbon monoxide poisoning that same morning while another passenger succumbed weeks later to injuries suffered during the incident.

A spokesperson for the task force said that a criminal investigation will be carried out if the re-examining of the facts pertaining to the fire will reveal new information.

A number of investigations were conducted in the years following the tragedy, though no definite causes were ever identified.

A 2009 investigation by Norwegian police officials initially identified a Danish lorry driver with prior arson convictions as the prime suspect in the fire on Scandinavian Star. However, further examinations revealed that several fires had ignited in different areas of the ferry, making it unlikely that these were all caused by only one individual especially one who was not familiar with the interior layout.

The lorry driver who was initially suspected as having caused the fire had also perished in the disaster.

Following the tragedy, Scandinavian Star changed ownership and was eventually rebuilt. It resumed sailings in the late 1990s under various operators before finally being laid up in 2003 and scrapped in Gujarat, India, the following year.

Baird Maritime

The best maritime site on the web. The sea's our scene!