Letter: Anatomy of disaster

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The Independent Culture
Anatomy of disaster

Sir: I read with interest Graham Kelly's interpretation of the events at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster 10 years ago ("Constant vigilance is the key to safety of our football fans", 12 April).

He rightly praises the positive outcomes of the Taylor inquiry, namely the introduction of all-seater stadia.

What a shame, then, that his piece reflects his own negative view of fans on the day and plays down the over-riding responsibility of the police for the disaster, as stressed by Taylor.

In accounting for the fateful crush, Kelly refers in passing to the police decision to open an exit gate, following which he suggests that Liverpool fans "hurried in". Later he refers to "the danger of allowing too many people to rush into the central pens" (my italics).

This image of fans rushing in at speed (or "stampeding" as has often been suggested to me) is insulting. Videos, as well as written evidence from the inquiry, show that fans did not rush in at speed but "passed through [the gate] steadily at a fast walk" (para 70, Taylor's Interim Report).

I was in the Leppings Lane pens as the crush built up and was subsequently rescued by a fellow fan (one of the many heroic acts praised by Taylor).

Having experienced such a crush, I can assure you that what one loses is the freedom and ability to move at any speed, especially voluntarily.

The language of "stampeding" and "rushing" is insulting and insensitive in the way that it has often been used to imply that fans intentionally stormed their way into the ground.

For 10 years relatives and survivors have endured an ongoing disaster characterised by misunderstanding, misinterpretation and misjudgement. We are seeking legal redress but also have to correct continuing public opinion that the victims of this disaster played a key part in causing it.

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