Arson Or Accident: The Scandinavian Star Fire In 1990

The ferry was 466.7 ft (142 m) long and 73 ft (22 m) wide.

All these years later there is a question that hangs over the events of 7th April 1990. The Scandinavian Star was a ferry which had had an eventful life. First built in 1971 it went through various hands until it found itself on a journey from Denmark to Norway. Onboard were 395 passengers and 97 crew. Of those souls 150 would die that night.

The journey was only an overnight run of approximately 150 miles ( 244 km)

A fire was reported at about 2 am, it quickly spread and an evacuation was ordered. Long before all the passengers were accounted for the captain and much of the crew were in the lifeboats and away, which is nice. The crew were not familiar with the ship as they had mostly been hired a few weeks before. Not many of them spoke Norwegian or English or Danish. That was a big issue as most of the passengers were Norwegian.

The ferry was 466.7 ft (142 m) long and 73 ft (22 m) wide. Photo: Terje Fredh / Sjöhistoriska museet click the image for the Life in Norway article.

The ship itself had been built with fire resistance in mind but had, over the years, been refitted several times. Part of one refit was to cover a lot of surfaces with a melamine veneer. That could burn easily and produce toxic gases faster than the other materials on the ship.

In addition, the refits had changed the layout from the original design to one with dead ends and confusing escape routes. Not long before it sailed an insurance safety inspector had given it poor marks. Many of the issues had been to do with the fire training of the crew and defects in safety equipment. The insurance company is reported to have issued insurance despite the report.

It gets worse.

The ship had a history of fires. Over the years it had sailed along the South Eastern USA and onto Mexico. It also did a stint in the Caribbean. During that time there had been no less than three blazes. One had been a kitchen fire and the other two were mechanically related.

On that fateful night defective fire doors and the panic meant that the flames went from deck to deck via the stairways. Some passengers were overcome while trying to find a way out while many others died in their cabins.

Then, believe it or not, it got worse.

The ship was put under tow to Sweden. There the fire services damped down the fire. They are sure it was extinguished when it set on fire again. There are reports of men being seen escaping from the ship shortly before this new blaze was discovered. When an inspection team began its work a mass of experts came to one horrific conclusion…The fire had been deliberately set. Actually four fires had been started at different points. Each of these was placed to get a maximum spread of flames.

The ship was towed to a Swedish port before emergency services could tackle the blaze over a 10 hour period.

The only events we have written about that come close to this are the cases of Canadian Flight 21, where a bomb was detonated and The Germanwings  murder/suicide.  The first of those is unsolved where as the second has a well  known culprit. The Scandinavian Star, however, is not even technically a crime yet. In 2021 a special task force was set up to look over the case.

The word on the internet is that this may well have been a giant insurance fraud. The ship had been over valued according to some sources and if so proved there would be seismic shock for all the officials who should have been watching out for the safety of those people who died. Whatever the actual truth it is scandalous that it has taken this long to come to a conclusion. Wheels within wheels?

The more I see of the world the more cynical I become about our governments and their dealings. As for the smiling, friendly face of big business? We have no friends there, not if a few dollars can be made by taking a risk with our lives.

As I read through various sources there seems little doubt that something was rotten a little way of the coast of Denmark. In an unofficial report in 2013 as many as nine of the crew were thought to have been involved in an arson.

Sticking to our own rules though we have to say this is all rumour until the lady sings. I almost hope some other explanation will present itself. The idea that someone I loved had died and the details had been dragged and delayed would be almost too much to take.



New Investigation Into 1990 Scandinavian Star Ferry Fire