A Hillsborough survivor who proved doctors wrong for 32 years after suffering horrendous injuries has died aged 55.
Andrew Devine, from Mossley Hill, was 22 years old when he went to watch Liverpool take on Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi final played in Sheffield on April 15 1989.
A coroner’s inquest in Liverpool ruled he was unlawfully killed as a result of the disaster, making him the 97th victim.
READ MORE: Survivor Andrew Devine dies to become Hillsborough's 97th victim
Andrew was not expected to survive the day after his chest was crushed and his brain deprived of oxygen in the lethal scenes which saw 96 fellow Liverpool supporters unlawfully killed in Britain’s worst ever sporting disaster.
The family released a statement, which read: “It is with great sadness and a sense of immense loss that we can confirm that Andrew Devine passed away yesterday at the premature age of 55.
“Our collective devastation is overwhelming but so too is the realisation that we were blessed to have had Andrew with us for 32 years since the Hillsborough tragedy.
“We welcome the conclusion of the coroner, Mr Andre Rebello, made today at Liverpool Coroner’s Court, that Andrew was unlawfully killed, making him the 97th fatality of the tragic events that occurred on April 15, 1989.
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“In the intervening years, Andrew has been a much loved son, brother and uncle. He has been supported by his family and a team of dedicated carers, all of whom devoted themselves to him.
“As ever, our thoughts are with all of those affected by Hillsborough.
“We would ask that our privacy is respected at this sad time.”
After making it through the first crucial 24 hours after the disaster, his mum and dad were warned he would probably be dead within six months.
Later still, they were told nobody who had suffered such injuries had survived beyond eight years.
After being discharged from hospital, he lived in his family home in Liverpool with devoted parents Stanley and Hilary with the help of 24-hour professional care.
Speaking to the ECHO for the first time in 2014 on behalf of the family, his sister Wendy and brother, Graham said he was the glue that held the family together.
Wendy said: “There have been a lot of tears over the years, but we are lucky. Andrew survived, he is living at home with his mum and dad – and with 24-hour professional care – and is loved and cared for by his family. He is the centre of the family and the glue which holds us together.
“We are a tremendously close family and Andrew is a big part of that."
They also dismissed any idea of Andrew having been “forgotten” outside the family, with Wendy stressing: “He’s not been forgotten. It’s just that people don’t know, and part of that is because mum and dad decided to stay away from the Press. To say he’s forgotten sounds bitter, and we’re not.”
Andrew has had two very different lives before and after Hillsborough.
Graham, 11 years his junior, recalls: “Because he was the oldest, he was kind of in charge of the rest of us, after mum and dad. He loved his football and was an avid Red who followed them around Europe. And he also loved going fishing.”
Wendy, just three years younger, told The ECHO : “He had a big gang of mates and was very popular – he went to Dovedale Primary in Mossley Hill and the Blue Coat School. He was very much the outdoor type and would spend time with friends on a canal boat and riding his bike. He had a girlfriend and I think he would definitely have wanted kids. He was great with kids and still is.”
He worked for Post Office Counters, but was training in accountancy with the aim of moving into that line of work.
And recalling the night before Hillsborough, Wendy said: “I was 19 and moved in the same social circles as Andrew but we hadn’t seen a lot of each other in the weeks leading up to the game.
"But the night before he came in as I was about to go to bed and we ended up having a really good catch-up. I have always been very grateful for that.”
Andrew had been at Hillsborough for the 1988 semi-final, while he was also at Heysel – so Wendy says the family already had experience of ringing an emergency helpline.
“I told my mum ‘You know we won’t be able to get through’,” recalls Wendy. “But, unlike some families, we were fortunate to get some information early, about 6 or 7pm. A friend of dad’s – a sergeant who was on duty in Liverpool – came round to the house.”
Mr Devine then rang a number in Sheffield and after asking about his son was told: “If you don’t come shortly you won’t see him alive.”
Wendy says: “It’s difficult not knowing what happened to Andrew. We were once told he had been taken onto the pitch but it turned out he had been taken to the back of the ground.”
On hearing their son had received very serious crush injuries and wasn’t expected to survive the day, Andrew’s parents went straight to Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital – and were there for the next six weeks, as Andrew, who was on a life support machine in intensive care, defied all the odds.
He was later transferred to Walton Hospital and then the young disabled unit at Fazakerley Hospital, while he also had spells at the Royal Hospital for Neurodisability in Putney, London. Throughout all this, family members were always by his side.
After about two years, Andrew was able to be cared for at home, although there would still be times when he had to go into hospital.
Wendy said: “At first, it was hour by hour and then it was day by day. I initially thought things were black and white – that Andrew was going to die or wake up and be OK."
In the years after Hillsborough Andrew made tremendous progress in his physio, hydrotherapy pool and sensory room treatments.
More recently, after LFC won the Champions League in 2019, James Milner got the clubs open top bus to stop outside Andrew's house so he could show him the European Cup.
The moving gesture by the club's vice-captain took place following the end of the Reds' victory parade around the city on Sunday which attracted a crowd in excess of 750,000.
The bus was heading back to Melwood just after 8pm when Milner requested that it stopped outside the south Liverpool home of Andrew Devine.
Since the tragic news of Andrew's death, hundreds of people have posted tributes online.
A spokesperson from Liverpool Football Club said: "Liverpool Football Club is deeply saddened by the passing of Andrew Devine, who died yesterday at the age of 55.
"A lifelong Liverpool supporter, Andrew continued to attend matches at Anfield when possible despite suffering life-changing injuries at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989. In doing so he defied expectations that he would not survive for six months after the tragedy.
"At an inquest held in Liverpool today, it was ruled that Andrew was unlawfully killed as a result of the disaster, providing a further tragic reminder of the toll that Hillsborough continues to take on all affected by it.
"The thoughts of everyone at the club are with Andrew’s family and his carers.
"It should also be noted that Andrew’s family have appealed for privacy and we would urge that this request is respected."
The Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance said: "Our thoughts are with the family of Andrew Devine who sadly passed away yesterday aged 55. Andrew survived Hillsborough but was left in a wheelchair having suffered a devastating brain injury. The coroner today concluded he was unlawfully killed. RIP Andrew, YNWA #jft97"
Jamie Carragher responded to LFC's statement by tweeting "#JFT97".
Ian Byrne, MP for Liverpool West Derby said: "97 people unlawfully killed. RIP Andrew #JFT97#YNWA "
Liverpool City Council said: "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Andrew Devine. Andrew is now the 97th Hillsborough fatality. #YNWA #RIP"
Everton Football Club took to Twitter and said: "We are deeply saddened to hear of Andrew's passing. Our thoughts are with his family and, as always, all those affected by the Hillsborough tragedy. RIP Andrew Devine."