Tragic echoes of Hillsborough

As the bodies of 82 soccer fans were laid out under the glare of Guatemala's Mateo Flores stadium lights yesterday, the parallels with Hillsborough were impossible to ignore.

One man who lost his two teenage daughters in the 1989 disaster in which 96 fans were crushed to death, said the latest soccer stadium tragedy "was Hillsborough all over again".

"I immediately felt anger. Will they never learn? Have people not listened to us? We predicted there would be another disaster but hoped it would never come true," Trevor Hicks, chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said.

Mr Hicks had watched helplessly as his two teenage daughters died in the crush, trapped behind the fences on the terraces of the Sheffield stadium. A large group of fans had gathered outside and clamoured to be let in. Fearing a riot, police opened the gate and allowed the group to enter an already filled terrace section, trapping fans along the fences.

First reports of the disaster on Wednesday night at the stadium where the Costa Rican and Guatemalan national teams were to compete for a berth in the 1998 World Cup in France spoke of overcrowding, a crush in a tunnel and people being trapped against pitchside fences. The echoes of Sheffield were stark.

"It came flooding back, and I felt physically sick," Mr Hicks said. "The lessons of Hillsborough haven't been learned, just as the lessons of Heysel and Ibrox haven't been learned."

Survivors' testimonies also had terrible echoes of 1989. Guatemalan and Costa Rican fans tried to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on victims, many blue and purple from apparent lack of oxygen. Bodies lay for hours inside the stadium, at least 15 children reportedly among them.

"Thoughts of a similar tragedy inflicted on our own football seven years ago still remain with us," the English Football Association's chief executive, Graham Kelly, said. "The events of that dreadful day are somehow still difficult to comprehend or accept. Now the world family of football mourns for Guatemala."

If the tragedy echoed that of Hillsborough so, too, did the mistakes. The use of fences to prevent fans getting on to the pitch was a "disgrace", the chairman of Liverpool city council's working party on Hillsborough said yesterday.

"I consider that the Hillsborough tragedy might not have been as great if they never had the fences up. If a problem develops there is nowhere for people to go," Jack Spriggs said. "In Britain, fences in major stadiums no longer exist to allow for the remote possibility of something like Hillsborough happening again, and we have also seen the introduction of all-seater stadiums."

In Britain, the inquiry after the 1989 disaster changed the face of football stadiums for ever. Lord Justice Taylor, who headed it, said inadequate responses to the "gross overcrowding" had caused the tragedy. "[Pens] were already over-full because no safe maximum capacities had been laid down, no attempt made to control entry to individual pens numerically, and there was no effective monitoring of crowd density," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss