Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Monday, 13 April 2009 13:19 UK

Reunited: Hillsborough survivor and his rescuer

David Gillooley and Fiona Nichol
David Gillooley and Fiona Nichol meet for the first time in 20 years

Ninety-six people died in the Hillsborough stadium disaster in 1989, and Liverpool fan David Gillooley believes he would have been among them if not for one woman - police officer Fiona Nichol.

She pulled fans to safety, creating space for Mr Gillooley to breathe and survive.

BBC Radio 5 Live brought them together for the first time in 20 years.

"I feel incredibly lucky to be alive." As he says this, David Gillooley's voice breaks. He is saying it to the woman he believes saved his life on Hillsborough's terraces all those years ago.

"I've been thinking about it for 20 years. I didn't think I'd be here to say thanks."

David - 26 at the time - had arrived at Sheffield Wednesday's ground late after his car broke down.

"I went through the turnstiles with my mate and we went left, into the left-hand pen. There was a load of people behind us. We got pushed down towards the pitch. I couldn't see my friend at all.


"I was a seasoned Liverpool fan then, I'd stood in the Kop for years and years, and I just knew that there was something wrong."

It was Fiona Nichol's day off, but her colleagues in the community team had urged her to join them and work at the match. She was positioned at the Liverpool end.

"I remember walking up and down and talking to the fans in the pens. I remember seeing some scouts and I talked to one of the scout masters for quite a while.

"Things were happening but I didn't know at the time. I didn't have a radio, didn't have any communication, but I went into the left-hand pen where the scouts were, and I started telling them to get out.

"I didn't know what was happening but something was amiss."

"That's the really interesting thing about this," said Mr Gillooley, "because I knew that there was something wrong.

"I knew that there was a crush that was getting worse and I knew that I was in trouble.

"I was shouting up at an officer in the upper tier and nothing was being done. And I was turning to the pitch and all I could see was not a lot being done. You could hear fans saying that someone had died and saying we've got to get out, we've got to get out.

David Gillooley and Fiona Nichol
David told Fiona he feels lucky to be alive

"A couple of girls came past me and one of them had passed out. And I was pinned up against the barrier. I felt really, really scared then."

To Fiona he said: "I didn't know what to do, I couldn't move. But you were at the back. You were the only one to me that took any initiative."

She says her aim was to get to the scouts.

David said: "I saw you pull people out. I saw you pull big fellas out. And you kept pulling and pulling and pulling, and it got to the point where I could feel less pressure. Now, without a shadow of a doubt, that's down to you.

"I've been thinking about it for 20 years and I didn't think I'd be here to sit next to you and all I can say is thanks."

Fiona said: "I can't say to this day what made me react. I remember seeing one of the cub scouts, he was 10 or 11 years old, and he had a look of absolute terror on his face. So I opened the gate of the left-hand pen - the one you were in - to get the cub scouts out.

"That look of sheer terror - I didn't know what it was about or why he was frightened. Nothing looked any different from any other football match I'd been to. It was just his face."

Fiona describes someone shouting "help him" and it was a small boy. She says she was pulling people out around David to get to the boy.

David asked her if she managed to get to him.

"He was one of the boys that died," said Fiona. "Him and his dad died that day."

David's daughter was six weeks old when he was at Hillsborough.

"Driving home that day [I was] thinking, 'She nearly lost her dad'. I feel incredibly lucky to be alive."

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