The Hillsborough inquests commenced on March 31, 2014 and are the subject of reporting restrictions that have been imposed by the Attorney General's office. Liverpool Football Club is respectful of these restrictions and will therefore only be making available updates from other media channels for the duration of the inquest.
The report below - and the witness testimony contained within it - does not necessarily reflect the views of Liverpool FC. Please be aware that the reports on these pages will contain evidence about the day of the disaster which may be distressing.
To view archive reports from each day of the inquest hearings, click here.
Courtesy of the Liverpool Echo - March 18
The coroner in the Hillsborough inquests reminded the jury of evidence about delays in the ambulance service response.
Coroner Sir John Goldring recapped the evidence relating to South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service as he continued his summing up for a 21st day.
The court was reminded of the evidence of former chief ambulance officer Albert ‘Don’ Page .
Mr Page was asked for his views on the actions of station officer Paul Eason, who was the first ambulance officer to arrive at the pens at 3.04pm on April 15, 1989.
The former chief officer was shown a picture of the terrace at 2.59pm which showed fans escaping from the pens.
Sir John said: “One of the important factors, he said, was the open gates. That, said Mr Page, indicated an emergency.
“If he had been present he would have agreed ‘totally’ that a major incident was unfolding.
“Because it had the potential of becoming a major incident, he would have declared one.”
He added: “He agreed that by at least 3.06pm, having made such an assessment, a major incident should have been declared.”
The court heard Mr Eason declared a major incident at 3.22pm.
The coroner said: “Mr Page agreed that Mr Eason’s failure to make a declaration until 3.22pm was, as he believed, a very serious failing.”
He added: “Mr Page agreed that the seven minutes from 2.59pm to 3.06pm could have made a life changing difference.
“Mr Eason and Mr Higgins had not alerted the control room that there was a problem.
“Given a problem with his radio, Mr Eason could, said Mr Page, have sent Mr Chippendale to the ambulance to transmit from there and declare a major incident.”
Mr Page also said he would have expected Mr Eason to check what was happening in the pens.
Sir John said: “It was not acceptable, said Mr Page, for Mr Eason, having formed the opinion a public order issue was developing in the pens, to persist in that opinion without checking for himself or speaking to someone.”
The court was also reminded of events in the ambulance control room as the disaster, in which 96 people died, unfolded.
Transcripts of communications at 3.06pm showed the police control room had asked for a fleet of ambulances, but SYMAS superintendent Raymond Clarke said they would ask the officers they had at the ground to assess the situation.
Summing up the evidence of Stuart Machin , who was working in the ambulance control room, the coroner said: “Had the police said there was a catastrophe or a major incident, the major incident procedure would almost certainly have followed, said Mr Machin.”
He added: “Mr Machin said there was sufficient information in the exchange between PC Rook and Supt Clarke to justify the declaration of a major incident.
“He agreed that, rather than declaring or activating a major incident, what they did was rely on ambulance officers at the scene to make an assessment.”
Calls from SYMAS control to a neighbouring ambulance service showed the situation being referred to as a major incident at 3.13pm.
Mr Machin said by that time they were aware they were dealing with a major incident.
The coroner said: “He said he thought there had been a delay of about five or six minutes by control recognising there was a major incident.
“This delay was from the time when the police were requesting a ‘fleet of ambulances’ and the apparent recognition of the scale of the disaster at 3.13pm.
“He agreed that in an emergency ‘every second counts’”
The court heard the ambulance major incident vehicle, containing equipment and radios, should have been dispatched as soon as a major incident was declared.
But, it did not arrive at the ground until about 3.55pm.
The coroner said: “He thought, said Mr Machin, the vehicle should have arrived before five minutes to four.
“If dispatched at 3.13pm, he agreed it should have arrived at no later than 3.30pm.”
Jurors in the Hillsborough inquests were told to ask themselves if lives might have been saved as the coroner summed up the ambulance response to the emergency.
On his 21st day of summing up, coroner Sir John Goldring finished reminding the jury about the evidence relating to South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service (SYMAS) and its response on April 15, 1989.
When he started summing up the ambulance evidence on Wednesday, Sir John told the jury they should bear it in mind when answering the question : “After the crush in the west terrace had begun to develop, was there any error or omission by the ambulance service (SYMAS) which caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster?”
As he completed the evidence relating to SYMAS, the coroner said: “Members of the jury, I reminded you, when I began this section dealing with SYMAS, of the question in your general questionnaire, and the question, really come to this: in the light of the medical evidence, might lives have been saved?”
Sir John recapped the evidence of ambulance expert David Whitmore, who had given his opinion on the actions of Paul Eason and Patrick Higgins, the two SYMAS station officers at the ground for the semi-final.
The court heard Mr Eason and ambulanceman Stephen Chippendale were in front of the pens where the fatal crush happened at 3.04pm but did not look in to see what was going on.
Mr Whitmore said they should have gone forward to the pens and established contact with police.
Sir John said: “It was ‘absolutely a mistake’, he said, for Mr Eason not to establish for himself what was going on in the pens.
“That failure, he said, fell below the standard of a reasonably competent ambulance service, as he put it.”
Mr Whitmore also said it was a serious error for Mr Eason not to liaise with Roger Greenwood, the police superintendent on the pitch.
In his report, Mr Whitmore said: “You only have one chance to get your decisions correct in the vast majority of incidents and once you start to lose command and control it can be extremely difficult to regain it.
“Whilst fully appreciating the pressure that both station officer Eason and Higgins were under, it is this fundamental failure for one of them to take decisive command at this point and consider their options that means that any semblance of a focal point for South Yorkshire Police or St John Ambulance and off duty health professionals to rally did not occur.”