Hillsborough Disaster

A recent tragic event at a concern in Houston bring home the danger of being in a crowd. People want to blame those who were there, but I reality, crowd crush kills people who no longer have control over their situation.

I researched a terrible example of crowd crush at a soccer match in Hillsborough, England where 96 people died and many others were injured as part of one of my books on disasters.

Excerpted from The Green Beret Guide to Seven Great Disasters (III)

Crowd crush can occur when the density of a crowd becomes greater than four people per square meter. At that point physics takes over as it gets progressively more crowded. When the crowd reached six to seven per square meter, people are so tightly packed together that they are no longer individuals. A shockwave can travel through these people like a wave through fluid.

If a single person falls, or more people push into the edge of the crowd, such as those still coming through the tunnel, it precipitates further crushing. People become unable to draw a breath.

It is often referred to as a ‘stampede’ but that is not only inaccurate but also insulting. Stampede implies people caught in it have a choice. They do not. And those on the periphery often have no idea what’s going on.

Situations we need to be aware with the potential for crowd crush are venues and areas where large crowds are trying to move in a certain direction to either reach a destination or to get away from a threat. Those at the rear push forward, not aware that those in the front have no place to go and are being crushed. It is estimated that a crush pressing against a fence can bend one designed to withstand 1,000 pounds of force.

One key to this is lack of visibility. In this case it was the entrance tunnel, where the entering crowd could not see ahead. Consider all venues in these terms.

As I explain in the book, crowd crush is most often the fault of those in charge of the venue. For many years, authorities blamed the victims, but the reality is much different.