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Hillsborough disaster

You are in: Liverpool > History > Discover > Hillsborough disaster > Timeline to disaster

Timeline to disaster

How the disaster at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest unfolded and claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.

An injured fan is carried on the pitch

An injured fan is carried on the pitch


Fans have already begun to gather in the spring sunshine around the bridge close to the Leppings Lane entrance to Hillsborough. By noon all of the grounds turnstiles are open.

Lord Justice Taylor's Interim Report describes the prevailing mood as "one of carnival, good humour and expectation."


The ground is starting to fill up. At this point there are far more fans in the Nottingham Forest sections than in the Liverpool areas.

A special train from Liverpool arrives at Wadsley Bridge station just before 2pm. The 350 fans onboard are escorted to the ground.

Policeman shouting

A policeman trys to control the crowd


At the Leppings Lane terrace the central pens are filling while the side areas remained relatively empty. 12,000 fans have entered as opposed to 20,000 at the corresponding semi-final the previous year. A tannoy message is broadcast asking fans in the central pens to move forward to make space.


The Superintendent on foot amongst the crowd outside the Leppings Lane end becomes anxious about the number of people moving down Leppings Lane and requests for the vehicle traffic on the road to be stopped. This is done at 2.30pm


The 350 fans who arrived on the special train to Wadsley Bridge pass through the turnstiles.


The crowd inside and outside the turnstile approach has reached 5,000. Many are sweating and short of breath, it becomes clear that not all of the fans can pass through the turnstiles before 3pm.


Outside the Leppings Lane end the Superintendent on duty radios for reinforcements and for a Landrover with a loudspeaker to help control the crowds.


The Landrover arrives, driven by a PC, who using the vehicle's loudspeaker urges the crowd not to push.


The Leppings Lane Superintendent, after agreement with other senior officers radios a request for the exit gates to be opened to allow access as he fears fatalities in the developing crush.


One of the Leppings Lane exit gates, Gate C, is opened to eject a ticketless fan.

150 fans push their way in to the ground before the gate is closed again.

Fans argue

Fans outside argue with police.


There is an increase in pressure in the central pens of Leppings Lane as more fans head down the central tunnel, the outer pens still have space with patches of concrete visible.

Outside the ground fans are becoming agitated by the lack of movement and fear they will miss the kick off, some push their way forward jamming people against the walls and turnstiles.

Youngsters and women begin to faint and are helped out through a barrier. In an attempt to escape the crush outside the ground some fans climb up and over the turnstile building.


The order is given by Chief Superintendent Duckenfield in the Police Control Room to open exit Gate C. When the gate is opened fans flow through in large numbers.

In five minutes 2000 fans pass through.

The majority make their way in to the central pens of the Leppings Lane end.


Sgt Higgins at another gate, Gate A, radios for the gate to be opened, despite the gateman’s objection, saying if not, “It’ll go, and someone will get killed.”

Permission is given to open Gate A, though this time the crowd is monitored as it rushes in.

At a third gate, Gate B, approximately 200 fans get in when the gate is opened, again against the gateman’s wishes.

Meanwhile, the Liverpool and Nottingham Forest teams come on to the pitch.


Gate C is closed.


At South Yorkshire Police Headquarters Chief Inspector Edmondson has heard over the police radio, speech and noise from Hillsborough suggesting distress.

He instructs PC Waugh at police headquarters to ask the Hillsborough Control Room if ambulances are required. The reply is that there are no reports of injuries but to stand by.

Fans spill on to the pitch

Fans begin to spill on to the pitch


The match kicks off, Gate C is reopened, allowing a steady trickle of fans to enter.


A Peter Beardsley shot hits the crossbar at the Kop end of the ground causing a surge forward of fans at the Leppings Lane end.


Superintendent Greenwood, the ground commander, who has been stood by the player’s tunnel has walked round to the Leppings Lane end. Seeing the distress of the fans he then runs on to the pitch to the referee who stops the game.

3.05pm and 30 seconds

Referee Ray Lewis stops the match.


Chief Superintendent Duckenfield, at this point still mainly concerned with public order, sends a message to ask for Operation Support, a call for all available police resources to come to the ground.


South Yorkshire Police Headquarters on hearing that there might be injuries at Hillsborough notifies SYMAS that ambulances may be required. Seconds later Superintendent Murray in the Police Control room makes a request for a fleet of ambulances. In all 42 are sent.


There is a request from the Leppings Lane perimeter fence for bolt cutters.


Chief Superintendent Nesbit, Commander of the Traffic Division arrives on the pitch. He takes charge at one of the front exit gates to the Leppings Lane end and organises a chain of officers to help get casualties out.

Fans exit through gate

Fans exit through a gate in the fence


A St John’s Ambulance arrives on the pitch. There is no call for doctors or nurses on the public address system until 3.30pm.

A request is sent to police headquarters to call the fire service to bring hydraulic cutting equipment to the Leppings Lane entrance.

At the same time ambulances begin arriving outside the Leppings Lane entrance.


Graham Kelly, Chief Executive of the FA, enters the police control room where Chief Superintendent Duckenfield tells him there have been fatalties, that a gate had been forced and Liverpool fans had rushed in.

He points to a television screen covering Gate C and says “That’s the gate that’s been forced.

“There’s been an inrush.”


Ambulances begin to arrive at the Penistone Road entrance.


Fire appliances arrive at both the Leppings Lane and Penistone Road entrances where their arrival surprises police who have not been informed about why they have been called or where they are to go.


There is a meeting in the Sheffield Wednesday club boardroom between Chief Superintendent Duckenfield, Graham Kelly, the referee and representatives of Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday. Chief Superintendent Duckenfield indicated that the match is likely to be abandoned.


Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish makes a tannoy announcement to calm the crowd. He asks fans to assist the police and those giving first aid.


The match is officially abandoned.

SOURCE: The Hillsborough Stadium Disaster, Lord Justice Taylor's Interim Report (August 1989).

last updated: 15/04/2009 at 20:09
created: 03/04/2009

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