STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Swedish criminal investigation into the 1994 sinking in the Baltic Sea of the Estonia passenger ferry in which 852 people died is to be closed for lack of evidence. Stockholm chief prosecutor Tommy Lindstrand had been unable even to prove that a crime had been committed, because most of the crew had perished on the night of the disaster. The investigation, which began on the day of the sinking itself, first focused on possible crimes under maritime law, but the death of the captain Arvo Andreasson had ruled out a prosecution, it said. A probe into involuntary manslaughter had also been dropped once it had proved impossible to demonstrate that the disaster had been caused through criminal negligence. Neither would Lindstrand pursue inquiries into possible negligence on the part of the German shipyard Meyer Werft since there was no chance of establishing fault beyond reasonable doubt. However, relatives and friends of the victims who perished in the disaster are continuing to pursue a civil claim in a district court in France. The huge ferry sank in the Baltic Sea off Finland in September 1994. The ISG is seeking damages from German shipyard, the French classification group Bureau Veritas which approved the ship for use as a ferry and the Swedish Maritime Administration which inspected it for safety. All deny any blame. The Estonia was on an overnight trip from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, to Stockholm when its bow door gave way during a heavy storm and water flooded the car deck. The 15,989-tonne roll-on-roll-off car and passenger ferry sank quickly, trapping many of the 989 passengers below decks. Of about 300 people who scrambled to the outer decks, only 137 survived. Many drowned or died of exposure and exhaustion during the rescue operation. Following a fraught investigation, a report was finally released last December. The report, delayed by internal bickering and resignations, blamed technical factors for the disaster but implied more could have been done by the crew and rescuers to save lives.