On April 15, 1989, the Liverpool Football Club was set to play an FA Cup semifinal game against Nottingham Forest. The teams were hosted at Hillsborough Stadium, in Sheffield, England. Instead of a football match, what unfolded within minutes of the game starting was an unbelievable tragedy: the Hillsborough disaster.
A total of 96 people lost their lives in a human crush, with supporters of the Liverpool FC being channeled into a fenced area behind the goal that was much too small for the crowd. Hundreds of others were injured in the incident, the darkest day in the history of the club – and in English sports history.
So what happened at Hillsborough Stadium that day, and what were the events that led to the deaths there? Although the police initially blamed the behavior of the fans for the deaths, the situation was far more complex than it first appears; crowd mismanagement on the part of stadium authorities has led to ongoing criminal investigations into what happened that day. Regardless of where the blame lies, the pain caused to victims and their families can be easily seen in the haunting Hillsborough disaster pictures, and it can be felt through the stories of those who survived.
The Goalkeeper Heard Fans Pleading For Help And Eventually Convinced The Referee To Stop The GamePhoto: Robin Kömmling / Youtube
Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobelaar was one of the few people who realized what was happening in the pens. At the beginning of the match, he could hear fans cry out as they were pressed against the fence. One even yelled out "Please Bruce, try and help us." He tried several times to flag down the referees and nearby police officers, but he was ignored. One police officer even told him "There’s nothing I can do."
Finally, he got the referee to call a time out and brought the full attention of the police and security to the unfolding tragedy. The teams were hustled into the locker rooms and told the match would re-start in 30 minutes. This did not prove to be the case.
The Human Crush Was Broadcast Live, And Then The Footage Was BuriedVideo: YouTube
In the direct wake of the tragedy at Hillsborough, victims' families were given the footage from the match to use in their legal cases. After all, the whole thing was fully filmed; it was being broadcast live around the country. After this, however, the footage was buried for nearly 25 years, thought to be too distressing – and incriminating – for the average viewer's eyes.
96 People Died, And Over 700 Were Injured
The most common cause of death that day was compression asphyxia, or being crushed until the victims couldn't breathe anymore and lost consciousness. After a few minutes in this state, they were legally dead or at the very least brain dead. Many of those killed were either teenagers or in their early 20s, and the age range of the dead went as high as those in their 60s. 766 people were also injured in the horrific tragedy.
Police Initially Blamed The Liverpool Supporters
The "hooligan culture" of football matches was the easy scapegoat for why things went wrong that day. The police and members of the government quickly attempted to shift the blame from themselves to the victims and the other spectators at the match. The most horrifying aspect of the aftermath was the fact that the coroner had ordered blood alcohol tests for all of the victims before she had even identified them – including the children.