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Tributes have been paid to a much-loved survivor of the Hillsborough disaster who has died from

by Malorie Layne (2020-07-25)


Tributes have been paid to a much-loved survivor of the Hillsborough disaster who has died from coronavirus.  

Dave Roland was famously pictured sitting on the Leppings Lane terrace at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield with his head in his hands following the horrific loss of life in 1989. 

The harrowing scene followed his brave efforts to help a boy caught alongside him in the crush that claimed the lives of 96 innocent men, women and children.

The 65-year-old died last week, days before the 31st anniversary of the tragedy.

His family paid a touching tribute to him on Friday, describing him as a 'proud Scouser' who gave joy to everyone around him.

Tributes have been paid to much-loved Hillsborough survivor Dave Roland, who has died from coronavirus.

hqdefault.jpgHe was pictured sitting on the Leppings Lane terrace at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield with his head in his hands following the horrific loss of life in 1989

Mr Roland, 65, died last week, days before the 31st anniversary of the tragedy 

His daughter, Michelle Hopwood, said: 'He was youthful, unique, kind-hearted and fun.

'He was the ultimate Peter Pan which helped form a joyful bond with his grandchildren, always turning up in daft hats and glasses, playing board games or being competitive telling them he could do anything because he was "the best" at whatever the topic of conversation was.

'He beamed with pride when he attended events that his grandchildren were participating in and loved to take photographs to show them off.

'He was known for being kind and generous to a fault.

After escaping the Leppings Lane crush Mr Roland and friend John Owen attempted to help victim Henry Rogers (pictured) after finding him battling for life on the Hillsborough pitch.

Sadly, they were unable to save the 17-year-old

'We have received so many messages from people who have explained the impact dad had on their lives, from taking so many to their first Liverpool game standing them on a box in the Kop, to pouring out words of advice which some men are now saying changed their lives, even keeping them out of prison.

'Carl [Michelle's brother] says he is the dad he is to his daughter, because of the type of dad my dad was to us.'

Mr Roland, who lived in Woolton, in south-east Liverpool, was 34 when he travelled to Sheffield to watch the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

After escaping the Leppings Lane crush he and friend John Owen attempted to help victim Henry Rogers after finding him battling for life on the Hillsborough pitch.

Sadly, they were unable to save the 17-year-old.

Fresh inquests into the tragedy concluded in 2016 after two years of hearings and more than 1,000 witnesses.

They jury concluded that the victims were unlawfully killed.

Giving evidence at the inquests Mr Roland said: 'I always remember the blazing sunshine shining down on him, so John had him in his arms and I had hold of his hand... He just went lifeless and we got pulled away.'

After seeing a picture of Henry in the Liverpool Echo, Mr Roland and Mr Owen traced his parents and visited them.

He said: 'The exact words I used, because I can remember it to this day: "We have come to explain to you that Henry wasn't on his own when he died, and we thought it would be comfort for you to know, rather than not know".

Both brave survivors attended Henry's funeral.

Mr Roland (pictured), who lived in Woolton, in south-east Liverpool, was 34 when he travelled to Sheffield to watch the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest

Ms Hopwood said the tragedy had a significant impact on her father, who separated from wife Christine two years after the disaster, although the pair remained friends up to her death last year.

She told the Liverpool Echo: 'He slowly stopped attending football matches after Hillsborough, we knew it was simply too painful for him.

'It took a long time for him to fully talk about what he had experienced.

When he did finally relay the events he revealed the horrors of being pinned against the crush barrier, seeing the faces of fear around him and trying desperately to help a young boy nearby.

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'Dad did take great comfort from attending the Hillsborough Inquiry to give evidence in the case of Henry Rogers, a sort of closure.

'Giving evidence didn't come easy to him and going to the courthouse in support of the truth and for the families involved was so important to him.

'I'll never forget how he shook pretty much the whole car journey there.

'But as soon as we arrived he stepped out knowing the importance of his statement.

His family paid a touching tribute to him on Friday, describing him as a 'proud Scouser' who gave joy to everyone around him.

He and friend John Owen attempted to help victim Henry Rogers after finding him battling for life on the Hillsborough pitch

'This was just who he was, putting others first even at the cost of causing himself upset.'

Mr Roland, who was born in Toxteth, often denied the harrowing image of the survivor sitting alone with his head in his hands on the afternoon of April 15, 1989, was him.

His family believe it may have brought up too many painful memories from the day.

When he moved home and found the jacket he was pictured wearing, Ms Hopwood said it opened up old wounds.

Yet, while the disaster changed his life, she said it did not define it.

Despite the impact it had, his love of music, football, his city and his family helped him find fun and joy in the world - and bring it to those who met him.

She said: 'His love of music and football was prevalent in every conversation.

'He would never miss a match, no matter what other occasions were on, always to be found at his favourite table in John Brodie's [pub in the Mossley Hill area of Liverpool].

'His partner Ann shared his love of football. If you have any thoughts with regards to where and how to use and extending the life of the roof., you can get in touch with us at the web site.  

'It was always entertaining seeing him revert to being like a child whenever he saw one of the team players - once stopping a family meal because he saw Kenny Dalglish in the same restaurant.

At the inquest into the disaster, jurors ruled that the victims were unlawfully killed

'He was frustrated by the impact that the restrictions, as a result of coronavirus, had on football games and the pending premier league fixtures and he was so excited at the prospect of seeing Liverpool lift another trophy.'

Mr Roland worked as a project manager for Doorset Technology Ltd in Speke and was planning to retire at the end of this year.

Fit and healthy when the pandemic broke, Ms Hopwood believes he had a false sense of 'invincibility' - though he wore a mask and gloves as advice hardened.

Believing he caught the condition before society was placed on lockdown, she said he displayed no symptoms beyond tiredness until he collapsed and was taken into the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

There, his situation deteriorated until his death on April 6.

This came despite what Ms Hopwood described as incredible and compassionate care from the NHS staff who fought to save him.

With Mr Roland a huge fan of David Bowie, this even extended to nurses playing his favourite songs to him on their phones while he received treatment. 

'If I could've taken a picture of what the ICU staff are facing on a daily basis I fully believe it would have been enough to shock everyone to stay home,' she added. 

'The images in the news do not convey the gravity of the situation.

'I was shocked at how young the patients in ICU were, fully expecting it to be full of elderly patients, yet there is a huge sense of professionalism and calm.

'I'm sure the staff are exhausted and doing the best they can but what I witnessed was nothing short of care executed with pride, professionalism, calmness and compassion.

'It was so touching to see how emotional the staff got when dad finally slipped away, we felt that the staff had been his family that week.'

Ms Hopwood said her father's last words to her were 'I Love You' and the last message he sent was a text to say a hug 'would be wonderful'.

Since his death, his family has been overwhelmed by the tributes that have poured in for him.

Mr Roland, who lived in Woolton, in south-east Liverpool, was 34 when he travelled to Sheffield to watch the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest

As well as those who knew and loved him getting in touch and sharing fond memories, the poignant image of Mr Roland at Hillsborough has been shared by thousands online.

While most of those who shared it did not know him, their words of support have touched his family and friends.

Reflecting on his life, and the impact of Hillsborough on it, Michelle concluded: 'People pass comments on how tragic his life was as a result of the disaster, which it was, however dad went on to live a full life and always had a smile on his face, always full of witty one-liners, borderline inappropriate jokes and bad dad jokes.

'He loved to share a daily meme on Facebook - something so many of us are missing now.

'Dad was always seeking something after Hillsborough which I believe he only found at the end of his life - peace.

'But he simply made people feel good about themselves when they were in his company, whether through what he did for them or what he said to them and in this difficult time we hope everyone can do the same to those around them.

'That should be his legacy.'