The engineering consultant which worked on the Hillsborough stadium in the 1980s has apologised after the jury at the inquest into the disaster concluded failures by the firm had been a contributory factor.
The disaster happened 27 years ago on 15 April 1989, when a crush developed in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. That afternoon 96 men, women and children died as a result and hundreds more were injured. The stadium is the home of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club.
On Tuesday fresh inquests into the deaths at Hillsborough gave its verdicts. A total of 14 questions were considered, some of which concerned the role of the Hillsborough stadium’s engineers at the time, Eastwood and Partners.
Regarding the question asking if there were any features of the stadium which the jury considered were unsafe or unsatisfactory and which caused or contributed to the disaster, the jury answered yes.
The jury was specifically asked: “Should Eastwood and Partners have done more to detect and advise on any unsafe or unsatisfactory features of Hillsborough Stadium which caused or contributed to the disaster?” The jury gave its answer – yes – and went on to offer an explanation.
“Eastwoods did not make their own calculations when they became consultants for Sheffield Wednesday Football Club,” it said. “Therefore, the initial capacity figures and all subsequent calculations were incorrect.
“Eastwoods failed to recalculate capacity figures each time changes were made to the terraces. Eastwoods failed to update the safety certificate after 1986. Eastwoods failed to recognise that the removal of barrier 144 and the partial removal of barrier 136 could result in a dangerous situation in the pens.”
Eastwood and Partners managing director Philip Richardson said in a statement: “We fully respect the inquest’s findings and will study them carefully.
“We have fully supported and followed the inquest and all inquiries from the outset.
“We would like to say sorry on behalf of the company at that time and to add our deepest sympathies to all those affected by this tragedy. We would also like to add that we are a very different company today and there is no-one here who has any first-hand knowledge of the stadium design decisions concerning Hillsborough in the 1980s.
“This was a terrible, tragic incident that will never be forgotten and out of the disaster there has come a legacy of improved stadium safety throughout the country.”