A former South Yorkshire police officer who lost consciousness at Hillsborough when a fan landed on his head has recalled seeing unresponsive fans ‘pushed up against the fence’.
Eamonn Larkin, who retired from the force in 2007, was giving evidence to the new inquests into the deaths of the 96.
Mr Larkin said: “I tried to reach through the fence towards people to see if they were breathing, if there was a pulse, to see what I could do to assess how badly injured the people who were in the pens were.”
He said some fans were ‘unresponsive’.
“All you could realise was that there was a pulse there, but the people appeared unconscious, but you couldn’t see into the pen to see how far back this crush was.”
Mr Larkin said he tried slapping faces to get fans to respond and tried talking to the fans and shouting at them.
He told the jury he didn’t see what other officers were doing because he was tuned in to what he was doing.
“I was indicating to people who I could see at the back of the crush to move back, because it was obvious that those at the back, if they moved back, it may relieve the pressure on those at the front.”
He said some fans swore at him.
Mr Larkin said while he was trying to help, one fan climbed over the fence and landed on his head.
He lost consciousness and woke up in the recovery position on the pitch.
Mr Larkin said he helped a fellow officer assist a trapped fan before he went to the gym, which was being used a makeshift morgue, and was asked to man the door.
He was taken to hospital when he started to feel unwell.
The former officer said he wanted to return to the football ground but was told by a doctor he couldn’t, so he carried on working in police liaison at the hospital.
When asked about instructions from senior officers, he said: “I don’t think it was that good. There appeared to be little or no direction on the ground. Officers were simply told ‘Help people. Get on with it’ and they took it upon their own initiative to do what they could to assist the casualties.”
The court also heard from a teenage Liverpool FC fan from Sheffield who passed out in the pens.
Michael Bowers, who was 18 at the time of the disaster, said when he came to on the pitch he was accused of being drunk by police officers who tried to push him back into the crowd.
He told the new inquests into the 96 deaths he arrived in pen four at about 12.30pm and sat near the back.
Mr Bowers said: “By about 2.30pm I had no control over where I was wanting to stand.
“You just, you ended up where you ended up, and that was on the first crush barrier towards pen five.”
He added: “It just got more and more congested. Again you had no control over your body.
“I ended up on a crush barrier and then my legs couldn’t go further forward, but the top half of my body was getting pushed over.”
He said he and other fans in the pen were screaming for help but police were ‘just not engaged’.
“We were all shouting to the police to let us out or do something.”
He said those at the front trying to get help from police officers, had their hands hit to get down.
Mr Bowers, who suffered crushing injuries to his hips and ribs, said eventually the pain became unbearable.
He believes he passed out and was taken on to the pitch.
He said when he came round he tried to get up but was unsteady on his feet.
“Two policeman approached me and tried pushing me back into the ground.”
In a previous statement he said one of the officers had claimed he was drunk and swore at him and told him to get back to where he’d come from.
Mr Bowers said they told him: “‘If you’ve walked this far you can walk back’. I fell back to the floor.”
Mr Bowers was approached by two other officers who arranged a St John’s Ambulance stretcher for him and he was taken to the first aid room where he waited for an ambulance.
Asked about his impression of the emergency response, Mr Bowers said: “It just appeared chaos. No one seemed to know what was happening.”
He added: “It felt like you were in a conveyor belt just waiting for an ambulance to take you to the hospital.”
He stayed in hospital overnight and was in a wheelchair when he was discharged.
Mr Bowers was asked by Police Federation barrister Sam Green whether the officers he first saw might have genuinely believed he was drunk.
He said: “Either drunk or just come out of an hour’s worth of crushing.”
He added: “I think if you look at that picture, the colour of my face and the way I was acting, I certainly wasn’t drunk and I don’t think I appeared to be drunk.
“I was an injured person who had just been in an unprecedented crush for about an hour.”
The hearing continues.