A FORMER miner has recalled one of the UK’s biggest sporting tragedies which happened 25 years ago this week.
Twenty-five years ago yesterday, 96 men, women and children died in the Hillsborough disaster, in the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
One East Durham man who was there remembers it as clear as if it happened yesterday.
Horden-born Ray Matthews was 33 at the time and a member of the Northern League Management Committee. He had managed to get a ticket for the match with his brother Keith, 55, who now lives in Peterlee.
“It’s always in my memory, you don’t forget things like this.
“I worked at Horden pit at the time and people say going underground is bad enough, but this was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had,“ said Ray, a brewery salesman and part-time sports journalist.
Ray and his brother were sitting near the corner flag near where tragedy struck.
He said: “It’s just a tragedy. We were in the end where all the trouble was. They were bringing the dead towards us and laying them on the field.
“We weren’t allowed out of the ground at the time, we didn’t realise how bad it was at first, we just thought play had been held up as people were spilling on to the pitch.
“The referee had blown the whistle as fans were on the pitch, they were the fans lucky to get away.
“My brother said a young girl was brought over and she was blue in the face.
“The next thing, there was a blanket over her.”
Ray, who has a partner called Audrey Bulmer, said he and his brother were lucky to get away, and eventually, after being allowed to leave at 5pm, it was a struggle to make contact with his worried father.
“It took ages to get to a phone – there were no mobiles in those days and the phonebox queues were miles long with people letting family know they were safe,” added Ray, who now lives in Grangetown, Sunderland, but still has relatives living in East Durham.
“Everybody was wondering who had passed away, how many had gone. The numbers went up from 10, to 15, then 30 and two days later it was revealed it was 96.
“Obviously since then, football stadiums are all-seater grounds.
“But what’s annoying is it hasn’t come out yet as to what officially happened.
“Families of the 96 that day are no further forward.”
Minutes’ silences and tributes have taken place at various grounds throughout the week.