6 Charged in 1989 Tragedy That Changed Soccer Forever
96 soccer fans died in the April 15, 1989, Hillsborough stadium disaster
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 28, 2017 8:40 AM CDT
In this April 15, 1989, file photo a lone soccer fan sits by damaged fencing at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, England.   (Uncredited)
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(Newser) – In what the BBC says PM Theresa May is calling a day of "mixed emotions," British prosecutors charged six people Wednesday in the April 15, 1989, Hillsborough stadium disaster in which 96 soccer fans died, many of them crushed to death—the first criminal charges in the tragedy that changed English soccer forever. Those charged include the then-police commander, David Duckenfield, accused of gross negligence manslaughter in the deaths of 95 people (no manslaughter charge was issued for the 96th casualty because he died four years after the tragedy, the AP notes). The ex-South Yorkshire Police chief, Norman Bettison, is charged with misconduct in public office for lying about the disaster and its aftermath, and Graham Henry Mackrell, the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club's safety officer at the time, was charged for failing to carry out health and safety duties.

A police attorney and two officers were also charged. The tragedy at the Sheffield stadium unfolded when more than 2,000 Liverpool soccer fans flooded into a standing-room section, with the 54,000-capacity stadium already nearly full for the match against Nottingham Forest. The victims were smashed against metal anti-riot fences or trampled underfoot; many suffocated. At the time, there were attempts to defend the police operation, and a false narrative circulated that blamed rowdy Liverpool fans. The original inquest recorded verdicts of accidental death, but victims' families, who the Guardian notes fought for years to see justice done, challenged it and saw the verdicts overturned in 2012. The disaster spurred a sweeping modernization of UK stadiums.

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