11 Feb 1997
Film Review 2
Disaster at Hillsborough
The movie "Disaster at Hillsborough" showed the complexity of a stampede.
From the build-up of people outside the gate, to the disaster that ended in the death of 95
The film started out outside the stadium where 95 people died at a soccer game.
The stadium was not equipped for the masses of people to show up all at the same place at
the same time. According to the officer interviewed there was no plan in case of an
emergency and no problems anticipated. The atmosphere outside the gates was pleasant
and people were looking forward to a good game. The stampede started when the people
in the rear realized that the game was to start before they were going to get in. The
stampede could possibly been averted if the kickoff were delayed but the man "in charge"
refused to delay. Just as at the "Who" concert the people in the rear of the line were in an
acquisitive panic to get into the stadium. This pressure was recognized by the police in
the front of the line and due to poor communication nothing could be done to stop it. A
large gate "gate C" was finally opened to let off the pressure in front. This is when the
true disaster occurred. People funneled straight onto the already full pens and created the
stampede which killed the 95 people. People in the rear were in an acquisitive panic and
the people in the front who were getting crushed were in a fearful panic. The emergency
gates would open but the police, not realizing the situation, kept people in and closed the
This example could not be anymore perfect to show a stampede and panic. All
four components were met. (1) Partial entrapment; the reality is complete entrapment.
As at the Who concert the only avenue of escape was blocked by the police. (2)
Perceived threat; this comes from both ends of the panic. The people at the rear were
threatened by the fact that they would miss the kickoff of the game or even not be able to
get into the game. The people at the front were facing the threat of being crushed. (3)
The partial breakdown of escape routs is obvious from the front. The gates to get out
were blocked by the police and there was a high fence blocking everyone on all sides
except the tunnel which was blocked by people trying to get into the pens. (4) Front to
rear communications breakdown occurred when the people at the fence realized the
situation and could not communicate it to the people at the rear to keep the people from
crowding up the tunnel. The biggest thing that caused this disaster was the failure of
control by police and the communication breakdown.
I see a correlation between this stampede and the riot in L.A. in that the leadership
failed. The chief at Hillsborough froze and lost his capacity to control the situation. In
L.A. the chief also lost his capacity of control. In both situations there was no plans for
emergency procedures. In L.A. the police were undertrained and in Hillsborough there
was just no plan in case something went wrong. The saddest part about these disasters is
that they could possibly been prevented