A relative of a young Sheffield couple killed at Hillsborough has said fans who went through a gate into the ground shouldn’t be blamed for the disaster.
Rick Jones and Tracey Cox, who lived together in the Crookes area and had both attended Sheffield University, were among the 96 Liverpool fans who died at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989.
The pair had gone to the match with Richard’s sister Stephanie Conning, who gave evidence to the new inquests into the tragedy.
The trio were among the supporters who got into the ground through a perimeter gate that was opened to relieve crushing outside the turnstiles.
Stephanie told the new inquests that those fans were not to blame for the tragedy and a tunnel leading to the central terraces should have been closed off to prevent the supporters going on to them.
She said: “We have often been blamed for causing the deaths. We had no choice to go through Gate C.
“We were getting crushed outside and then people behind us were taken through that Gate C.
“It was just a simple thing, if the tunnel had been closed off.”
Stephanie, who was attending her first away match, said she was ‘shocked’ by the number of people outside the ground when they got to Hillsborough.
She said she was being crushed against the perimeter fencing outside before Gate C was opened at 2.53pm.
She said those outside the ground were unable to do anything to get out of the situation.
“I think I’ve heard it said that anybody who was sane would try to get themselves out of that situation, but by the time you’re in that situation you can’t remove yourself from it, you can’t extract yourself,” she said.
Stephanie said that compared to the situation outside, it felt ‘quite comfortable’ on the concourse and in the tunnel, the group went on to Pen Three of the Leppings Lane terraces.
She said moments later an initial crowd surge behind them knocked Tracey to the ground and her shoe came off, but she was helped to her feet by fellow fans.
She said that was the last moment she saw Rick, who was 25, and Tracey, 23, alive as they got separated in another crowd surge.
In a statement, Stephanie said she had felt unable to breathe in the pressure of the crush, despite being able to scream ‘I’ve got to get out’.
Stephanie said that after being carried down the terraces in the crush and being turned around, she had been looking for her brother.
“I wanted my big brother to help me,” she said.
“You know, I was scared and I was looking for him to try and resolve the situation for me.”
After separately being removed from the terraces, Rick and Tracey were both carried to the stadium gym on advertising hoardings, where they were both pronounced dead at around 4pm. Their bodies were formally identified the following morning by Rick’s father Leslie Jones.