'It was not the fault of British civilisation that the Titanic sank.
It was the tragic sum of little mistakes.' Whether investigators can ever work out just how little or how big any such errors might have been, however, will depend on the conclusion of a missing person report filed with Estonian police on Friday.
'Some people not friendly to Estonia have said a lot of things. 'When a tragedy happens it is human nature to look for someone guilty,' said Toomas Songi, personnel director of the Estonian Shipping Company. In my view circumstances, not people, are guilty.' His desk is stacked with files, each one with a passport-size photograph attached.
Of the 140 crew Mr Songi hired to work on the Estonia, most are now dead.
'I would like to think that Captain Piht escaped and is for some reason in a state that prevents him from talking himself,' said the Estonian transport minister, Ande Meister.
He suggested that the ship's Swedish and Estonian owners might have reason to conceal his whereabouts.
The sombre face and exemplary record belong to Avo Piht, 39 years old, 19 years at sea and, just possibly, the one man still alive who could tell exactly what happened soon after midnight on Tuesday night aboard the Estonia.Only three of 14 officers are known to have survived.Mr Songi's hands shake and lips tremble as he surveys a terrible human wreckage that no amount of bureaucratic punctiliousness can diminish.'We think, we know he is still living,' said Elve Vailmar.'This is not the first time he has gone away for a long time. All we can do is wait.' She said television pictures had clearly shown his face.