Hillsborough inquest hears how friends lost sight of 10-year-old victim

Liverpool fans scramble upwards from the crush on the Leppings lane terrace during the Hillsborough disaster at Sheffield Wednesday's ground in 1989.
Liverpool fans scramble upwards from the crush on the Leppings lane terrace during the Hillsborough disaster at Sheffield Wednesday's ground in 1989.
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Two family friends of the youngest victim at Hillsborough have described how they lost sight of the 10-year-old boy as crushing on a terrace at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final became “unbearable”.

One lost consciousness while the other was unable to look down to see where 4ft 9in Jon-Paul Gilhooley - a cousin of Liverpool and England footballer Steven Gerrard - was following a number of surges in the crowd.

All three had entered Sheffield Wednesday’s ground through exit gate C which had been opened by police to alleviate overcrowding at the Leppings Lane turnstiles, the inquest into the deaths of the 96 fans heard.

Glen Flatley said they went into central pen 3 aiming to find a barrier for Jon-Paul to sit on and watch the match but they could not get through the crowd.

He recalled a “big surge” shortly after the whistle for kick-off. He said: “It was becoming really really unbearable. It just kept coming.

“The pressure ... it was like concrete. It was like being pressed between two massive slabs of concrete and someone forcing it against you.”

He added: “Jon-Paul was somewhere in front of me but I couldn’t see him because he was obviously much smaller and we were so packed in together at this time that it was impossible for me to even look down and see where he was.”

He went on: “It had become so bad that I had accepted I was about to die and I knew that death was imminent.

“I just could not see any way out of it and everywhere became serene, peaceful. It seemed to become quiet. Then I just relaxed and all of a sudden something gave.”

The jury has heard previously that a crush barrier collapsed during the pressure of the crushing and a large number of victims died in front of it.

Rodney Jolley said he thought that he, Jon-Paul and Mr Flatley were initially a quarter of the way back from the top of the terracing but ended near the front close to a perimeter fence.

Asked about the packing in the crowd, he said: “You just could not breathe, it must have been horrible for Jon-Paul. it was so compact.

“I remember I was shouting out to try and get some attention that I had a child in my care, you know.”

Describing the moment he regained consciousness, he said: “The next thing I remember is I heard somebody say ‘this one’s alive’ or ‘this one’s still alive’ and someody lifted me up and they put me on the grass.

“I remember I was alive because I could smell the grass and I could see the blue sky.”

Jon-Paul travelled by coach to Hillsborough with his uncles, Brian and John, after they had picked up a spare terrace ticket on the morning of the match.