03/17/2015 02:30 EDT | Updated 05/17/2015 05:12 EDT

Hillsborough stadium police chief admits failure to close tunnel was cause of death of 96 fans

WARRINGTON, England - The police commander in charge of the Hillsborough soccer stadium on the day of the 1989 disaster says his failure to close a tunnel was the "direct cause" of the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans.

David Duckenfield told the Hillsborough inquests he "froze" before ordering the opening of an exit gate to relieve congestion at the FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Under questioning from barrister Paul Greaney, Duckenfield accepted that the crush would not have taken place if fans had been prevented from going down a tunnel.

Greaney put it to Duckenfield that the failure to close the tunnel was "the direct cause of the deaths of 96 persons." Duckenfield replied: "Yes sir."

New inquests are being held after the original verdicts of accidental death were overturned.