A stadium design expert said the collapse of a crush barrier during the Hillsborough disaster ‘must have had a significant effect’ on the crowd.
Giving evidence at the new inquests in Warrington, John Cutlack, a structural engineer with more than 34 years’ experience, said he wasn’t able to state the precise effect the collapse of barrier 124a in pen three had on those who died in the pen.
But he added: “If a barrier collapses then it is inevitable it releases a pressure on those people in front of it.”
A number of people died in front of barrier 124a during the disaster, and Mr Cutlack said the barrier’s collapse ‘must have had a significant effect’ on the crowd in general.
Mr Cutlack, who has designed stands at Newcastle United and Arsenal’s grounds, said there were three factors behind the barrier’s collapse – firstly the density of the crowd in front of it.
Secondly, the number of people who were applying pressure to the barrier was greater than it should have been. This was because the distance between barrier 124a, and the one behind it, was seven metres when it should have been no more than four metres.
He said the effect of the crowd depth ‘means the pressure you can generate on the barrier is substantially more than should have been generated’.
The third factor was that the barrier was too low.
Mr Cutlack said the collapse of barrier 124a resulted from a combination of all three factors.
The jury heard the barrier underwent testing by SGS inspecting services following the disaster, to identify the types of metal used.
The company concluded the leg support failures were indicative of ‘gross overloading as the structure sustained plastic collapse under the excessive forces generated by the crowd’.
Mr Cutlack agreed.
He said the barrier would have passed the safety tests the day before the 1989 disaster.
But he said even if the barrier had been replaced the day before with a new one which satisfied all the latest safety requirements, it could still have collapsed.