LONDON – A British man who died 32 years after being caught in a crush of soccer fans at an overcrowded Hillsborough Stadium has been recorded as the 97th victim of the 1989 tragedy.
Andrew Devine was badly injured in a crush of Liverpool fans at the stadium in Sheffield on April 15, 1989. He died Tuesday in a hospital in Liverpool, northwest England, at 55.
After an inquest on Wednesday, Liverpool Coroner Andre Rebello said Devine died of aspiration pneumonia, to which he had been left vulnerable because of injuries from the Hillsborough disaster.
“I find that it is more likely than not that Andrew Devine was unlawfully killed, making him the 97th fatality from the events of April 15, 1989,” the coroner said.
Authorities spent years blaming fans for the disaster, which unfolded when more than 2,000 Liverpool supporters flooded into a standing-room section behind a goal, when the 54,000-capacity stadium was nearly full for a match against Nottingham Forest. Many victims were smashed against metal fences, trampled underfoot or suffocated in the crush.
An initial inquest ruled the deaths an accident. But a campaign by survivors and victims’ families succeeding in getting the verdicts overturned in 2012, after a far-reaching probe that examined previously secret documents and found wrongdoing and mistakes by authorities.
A second inquest concluded in 2016 that the 96 victims were unlawfully killed as a result of failings by police, the ambulance service and Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, which ran the stadium. It found the behavior of fans did not contribute to the deaths.
Several former police officers and a lawyer were charged years after the disaster with attempting to pervert the course of justice, but none has been convicted.
Devine’s family welcomed the coroner’s findings about his death.
“Our collective devastation is overwhelming but so too is the realization that we were blessed to have had Andrew with us for 32 years since the Hillsborough tragedy,” the family said in a statement. “As ever, our thoughts are with all of those affected by Hillsborough.”