Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 01:00 UK

'We were grasping for survival'

By Mark Edwardson
BBC North West Tonight presenter

Leppings Lane end at 1507 BST
Mark was trapped in the Leppings Lane end of the stadium

Saturday 15 April 1989 was a gorgeous spring day packed with hope and optimism. My beloved Liverpool were due to face Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.

No-one could have predicted that on such a beautiful day more than 90 of my fellow supporters would lie dead.

When I arrived at the ground just after 1.30pm, it was already clear there were too many people queuing at Leppings Lane, the enclosure I held a ticket for.

Police were desperately trying and failing to control the thousands who arrived over the next hour or so.

I ended up being crushed against a wall just in front of the pitifully tiny turnstiles. It was obvious things were not going well.

Eventually my ticket was checked, the stub was removed and I made my way across the concourse towards a tunnel beneath the stand relieved the worst was over.

At the other end of the tunnel the central pens were already full.

When I got there at about 2.30pm they were packed and I was standing right at the back.

A quarter of an hour later I was half way towards the pitch - and importantly the fans who had been in front of me remained so.

We'd been looking forward to a great game of football and now we were gasping for breath and grasping for survival
Mark Edwardson

We were jammed solid and things were getting worse. More spectators were pouring in behind us after the police, who had lost control, opened a large gate allowing a slew of people uncontrolled access to the stadium.

A sense of mild concern had grown to panic and then, as the crowd became a solid mass of humanity, to blind terror.

We'd been looking forward to a great game of football and now we were gasping for breath and grasping for survival. As we know, dozens of us were unsuccessful.

One of those people may have been a man who, I'm guessing, was in his 60s.

I spent half an hour pushed up against him with he in turn wedged against a crush bar. I never saw his face. I had my back to him throughout. But I'm haunted by his voice.

He was pleading with me to give him space to allow him to breathe. He was screaming in agony telling me he was suffering a heart attack.

I've no reason to doubt his plight was anything less than grave. I hope he survived - but I've no way of knowing.

Mark Edwardson return to Hillsborough for the first time in 20 years

Another man, to whom I probably owe my life, was stood in front of me. We were face to face, our chests forced together as if we were in some horrible embrace.

Like everyone else I was desperate for air and space and on the verge of passing out.

Foolishly, I decided that as I couldn't rise above the crowd to relieve the pressure and breathe I'd go down to where my legs were telling me there was more space and perhaps some refuge.

Realising what I was trying to do he screamed at me, eyes wide, urging me not to do it. He shouted in my face: "You'll never come back up!"

He wasted his own precious oxygen to make sure I stayed where I was. I would like to meet him to express my genuine and sincere gratitude.

It was 3.25pm when I was pulled through the tiny gate and on to the pitch. I was greeted by the most horrific scene I've ever encountered.

Justice for 96

The faces of the less fortunate were still pressed up against the fence, their features contorted with fear and desperation, some of them waiting not for rescue, but for death.

Others on the pitch, lifeless and blue, were being carried away not by the emergency services but by fellow fans in the vain hope they could be resuscitated.

Yet more dazed and confused fans were wandering around taking deep lungfuls of air - probably the first proper breaths they'd gulped for an hour.

And then the sound - not of the dying nor the injured screaming in pain and agony - but some Forest fans chanting "Heysel" as the bodies of some of my fellow fans were being laid out on the grass.

The disaster prompted some positive changes. No more fences and all-seater stadia amongst them. The Taylor report absolved the fans of any blame for the tragedy and quite rightly.

But in my personal opinion, those responsible for the tragedy, from the police pushing fans escaping from the crush back over the fence to the higher echelons of South Yorkshire Police, have never been made to answer for their actions.

Until that happens, there can never be justice for the 96.



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