Decades Later, 6 Face Charge in UK Soccer Stadium Crush That Killed 96 - NBC Chicago
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Decades Later, 6 Face Charge in UK Soccer Stadium Crush That Killed 96

A false narrative circulated that blamed ticketless and rowdy fans, which their families have challenged for decades

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    Decades Later, 6 Face Charge in UK Soccer Stadium Crush That Killed 96
    Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images, File
    This April 26, 2016, file photo shows tributes placed at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, England, where 96 football supporters were crushed to death in what's known as the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

    British prosecutors charged six people Wednesday in the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster where 96 soccer fans were crushed to death.

    Those charged include the police commander on the day, David Duckenfield, who is accused of gross negligence manslaughter. The former chief of South Yorkshire Police, Norman Bettision, is charged with misconduct in public office for lying about the disaster and its aftermath.

    The attorney for the South Yorkshire Police was charged with acting "with intent to pervert the course of public justice" relating to changes in witness statements during an inquiry into the tragedy.

    "Criminal proceedings have now commenced and the defendants have a right to a fair trial," said Sue Hemming, the head prosecutor for special crime and counter terror.

    The tragedy at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield unfolded when more than 2,000 Liverpool soccer fans flooded into a standing-room section behind a goal, 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 in the crush.

    At the time, hooliganism was common, and there were immediate attempts to defend the police operation and assign blame to the Liverpool fans. A false narrative circulated that blamed ticketless and rowdy Liverpool fans — a narrative that their families have challenged for decades.

    The original inquest recorded verdicts of accidental death. But the families challenged it and campaigned for a new inquiry. They succeeded in getting the verdicts overturned in 2012 after a far-reaching inquiry that examined previously secret documents and exposed wrongdoing and mistakes by police.

    Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images

    Some 23 suspects, including individuals and organizations, had faced the possibility of charges.

    The Hillsborough disaster prompted a sweeping modernization of stadiums across England. Top division stadiums were largely transformed into safer, all-seat venues, with fences around fields torn down.

    "All we want is accountability, nothing more and nothing less," said Margaret Aspinall, whose 18-year-old son, James, died in the disaster.