‘Three key factors’ led to disaster at football stadium

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Miscalculating the safe crowd capacity, failure to monitor the number of people in pens and the build-up of spectators at turnstiles all led to danger for the supporters at Hillsborough, inquests into the 1989 tragedy at the stadium have heard.

Michael Mansfield QC, representing some of the families of the deceased, said these were “three key factors” which contributed to creating a “serious risk of danger” on the Leppings Lane terraces where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death.

Mr Mansfield yesterday put what he called “three short propositions” to stadium expert John Cutlack, a structural engineer, at the hearing in Warrrington.

Mr Cutlack was instructed to give his expert opinion following weeks of evidence from witnesses responsible for safety on the day.

First Mr Cutlack agreed that there had been a “substantial” miscalculation of the capacity of the Leppings Lane terrace, the jury having heard the maximum safe number of fans should have been 5,426 instead of 7,200.

He also agreed there was also a failure to rectify, or lower, the capacity limits in the decade before the disaster on April 15, 1989, when Liverpool played Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough.

Secondly, Mr Mansfield put it to the witness that there was also a failure to put in place a system, either structural, mechanical or by human means of simple counting, so the numbers of spectators going into the separate pens on the Leppings Lane terrace could be monitored. Mr Cutlack replied: “Yes, I think I would agree with that.”

Finally Mr Mansfield put it to the expert that there had been a failure to prevent a build-up of fans on the approaches to the turnstiles outside as supporters descended on the ground.

Mr Cutlack replied: “I think the turnstile configuration in 1989 was insufficient because there were too few turnstiles for the way the ground was used on the day. I think there were better arrangements that could have been put in place.”

The hearing continues.