‘‘I sat down next to this copper who was just in floods of tears and I started crying my eyes out too, it wasn’t a good thing to go through for a 19-year-old.’’
A friend of Fearon’s found him and led him out through Hillsborough’s main stand. He says he saw a policeman on horseback and got angry, but his friend dragged him away. After walking ‘‘many, many miles’’ into Sheffield he rang his relieved mum – his house was full of family as they thought he might have died.
In the days following, Fearon talked with police, who he said were fair. He didn’t want any part of lawsuits being discussed and, to this day, refuses to blame police entirely for what occurred.
‘‘It was awful and appalling. One of my good mates, a bloody good footballer, died, but I didn’t think it was anyone’s fault. It was a series of events that led to a tragedy.
‘‘ There weren’t enough turnstiles, many of us arrived too late, they opened the gates and people piled in – it was just a number of things. What saved me that day was my years in the Kop.’’
While he attended memorials, his attendance at games fell away. He did see Liverpool’s ‘‘battering’’ of Forest in the replayed match and then victory in the FA Cup final at a ‘‘subdued’’ Wembley in 1989. But he was unable to sing LFC’s anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, for many years. The first two years after the disaster, he sought solace in alcohol.
Fearon says getting rid of standing room in UK football stadiums, ‘‘ was the death of atmosphere’’ and, with better management, it should have a place in modern grounds.
Through the years there have been inquiries, with survivors’ families wanting police culpability and alleged cover- ups brought into the light. None were more damning than the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which declared in September last year that no Reds fans were culpable, that lack of control from police was to blame and that up to 41 of the 96 who died could have survived if the emergency response was better co-ordinated.
Fearon says it’s only in the past few years that he’s been able to talk about what happened that day. He blanked much of it from his memory but can now remember a number of tiny details. He recently opened up to his cousin in London, who was carrying out a school project on Hillsborough and found the experience cathartic.
He still does not like to see footage of the disaster but says it was the likely reason he followed the career path he did.
‘‘It probably led to me becoming a nurse. To see people just feet away from you and not be able to do anything [like CPR], I just felt helpless.’’
Since moving to New Zealand in 2007, Fearon has been heavily involved in Porirua’s Western Suburbs club and says football remains ‘‘a religion’’ for him.
A Wellington Phoenix fan as well, his biggest footballing ardour is reserved for the Reds.
He will continue to go through the ups and plenty of downs that come with supporting the mighty Liverpool FC and has even set up a Facebook page for fans – search for Wellington Liverpool FC Supporters Club – so he doesn’t have to suffer alone.
April 15, 1989 is part of his makeup.
‘‘ What happened at Hillsborough will never shake my passion, it shaped who I am.
‘‘Some of the best experiences of my life have been because of football and Liverpool.’’
Forever red: Whitby’s Danny Fearon has Liverpool FC in his veins and like many LFC-mad dads, will be passing the baton to at least one of his kids, if the bedroom wall poster is anything to go by.