A SON has relived the horrifying moments he fought to save his father’s life during the Hillsborough football disaster, only to watch him swallowed up and crushed to death by a powerful crowd surge.
Preston-born Gerard Baron Jnr told the Hillsborough Inquest at Warrington: “Dad turned around to face me and he had a look of just sheer terror on his face.”
At 67, his father Gerard Snr, a retired postal worker from Ribbleton, was the oldest of the 96 victims of the disaster in April 1989.
Speaking via a video link from Australia, where he now lives, Gerard Jnr told the inquest he had tried to reassure his father as the pressure built up in the Leppings Lane end of the stadium before the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
“The conditions in the pen gradually just became more congested and that is when we decided to move down to the front for a better view,” he recalled.
“It got to a point where it was manageable, but uncomfortable. Really, really packed to a point where it was hot. The pressure just became immense.”
As the crowd built up even more and the pressure became “absolutely unbearable,” he said he moved behind his dad to shield him.
“My father then had his hands on the railings. I sort of cradled him, having in mind trying to protect him from the pressure that was occurring.
“My dad turned around to face me and he had a look of just sheer terror on his face. I could see that.
“I just said to him that he would be OK.
“From that point it became worse and I was really, really concerned for my dad and for myself.
“Then there was a sudden surge from the back and I couldn’t hang on any further with my hands. My arms buckled and I was sort of twisted to the right-hand side, with my back to the fencing, with bodies just pressed from all sides against me.
“That was the last time I saw my father alive.
“My thoughts were running rampant at that time with what to do. But in reality nobody could do anything. It was just packed and stressed and everything.
“In the midst of all that human suffering there were people apologising to each other for their actions.”
Gerard Snr, a father of seven, died of crush injuries despite frantic attempts by rescuers to revive him both on the terracing and at the side of the pitch.
The lifelong Liverpool supporter, whose brother Kevin played for the club in the forties and fifties, had travelled to the match with his son, leaving home in Preston at around 10.20am and arriving at Hillsborough at 1pm.
The pair went straight into the ground and into pen three, the area where most of the fatalities occurred.
The inquest, which resumed yesterday after a month’s summer break, was shown video footage and photographs identifying Mr Baron and his son as the drama unfolded.
Witness William Duckworth, who managed to escape from the area near to Mr Baron despite suffering cracked ribs, told the hearing he saw “an old man pressed tight up against the fence.”
He said: “I don’t recall seeing the gentleman conscious. He was either semi-conscious or unconscious, but clearly in difficulty.”
A St John’s Ambulance volunteer pushed an oxygen pipe into Mr Baron’s mouth, but it was ineffective in the crush.
“He didn’t look like he had any life left in him, I’m sad to say,” added Mr Duckworth.
A student nurse on the edge of the pitch tried to help Mr Baron by pushing him back off the fence to ease pressure on his chest, “but it was just impossible.”
Mr Baron was pulled from the crowd and two off-duty firefighters and a St John volunteer tried to revive him, but he did not respond.
He was carried across the pitch on an advertising board, but was pronounced dead by a doctor outside at 4.01pm.
At an earlier hearing Gerard Baron Jnr had said: “What transpired that day changed my life forever. Neither of us envisaged witnessing hell before our eyes, nor did we expect to be fighting so desperately for our lives, as were so many others.”