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Hillsborough inquests continue today
8:41am Wednesday 2nd April 2014 in News
The coroner in the fresh inquests into the deaths of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster will continue his opening statement today.
There were emotional scenes in the packed courtroom yesterday as Lord Justice Goldring laid bare the "very many individual human tragedies" of the catastrophic events nearly 25 years ago.
Some of the hundreds of relatives present wept during powerful moments that included a roll call of the victims' names and harrowing accounts of the fatal crush at the FA Cup semi-final on April 15, 1989.
Details of how the emergency services struggled to deal with the unfolding chaos were presented to the jury, including the use of a makeshift process that saw Polaroid photos of the faces of the dead pinned to a notice board for relatives to identify.
Jurors were told they will need to consider a number of questions including why the police officer in charge on the day, Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield, claimed fans had forced their way through a gate at the stadium, minutes after he gave the order for it to be opened.
Making his opening statement, Lord Justice Goldring said: "The disaster is seared into the memories of the very many people affected by it, most notably of course the families of the 96 people who died."
The court heard 82 people were declared dead in the stadium, 12 were declared dead at hospital, one person died two days later and another, Tony Bland, died in 1993.
A father and son and four pairs of siblings were among the dead, and the youngest victim was ten years old.
Lord Justice Goldring told the jury of seven women and four men: "Over the coming days you will hear much more detail about each of those who have died.
"The accounts which their relatives will give about their lives, their personalities, their hopes, their plans, will be extremely moving.
"There is no doubt that this one disaster encompasses very many individual human tragedies."
Describing how the fatal events unfolded, the coroner told the jury that Mr Duckenfield had only been promoted to his role on March 27, less than three weeks before the disaster.
He was given responsibility for the Liverpool-Nottingham Forest match over a more experienced officer despite his speciality being criminal investigations rather than public order.
Lord Justice Goldring told the jury: "Whether that was a sensible decision may be something for you to have to consider."
Harrowing details of how the crush in the Leppings Lane terraces escalated were laid out, with emergency services not immediately realising the scale of the catastrophe.
Jurors were told that between 3pm and 3.20pm police and ambulance staff at the ground "began to appreciate the disaster which was unfolding".
"The events developed quickly. At first, many involved didn't understand they were facing a major disaster," the coroner told the jury.
Lord Justice Goldring said the 11 would have to consider "whether opportunities were lost which might have prevented the deaths or saved lives".