One lost consciousness while the other was unable to look down to see where 1.4 metre Jon-Paul Gilhooley — a cousin of Liverpool and England footballer Steven Gerrard — was following a number of surges in the crowd.
All three had entered Sheffield Wednesday’s ground through exit gate C which had been opened by police to alleviate overcrowding at the Leppings Lane turnstiles, the inquest into the deaths of the 96 fans heard.
Glen Flatley said they went into central pen 3 aiming to find a barrier for Jon-Paul to sit on and watch the match but they could not get through the crowd. He recalled a “big surge” shortly after the whistle for kick-off. He said: “It was becoming really really unbearable.”
He added: “Jon-Paul was somewhere in front of me but I couldn’t see him because he was obviously much smaller and we were so packed in together at this time that it was impossible for me to even look down and see where he was.”
He went on: “It had become so bad I had accepted I was about to die and I knew that death was imminent.
“I just could not see any way out of it and everywhere became serene, peaceful. It seemed to become quiet. Then I just relaxed and all of a sudden something gave.”
The jury has heard previously a crush barrier collapsed in the pressure of the crushing and a large number of victims died in front of it.
Rodney Jolley said he thought that he, Jon-Paul and Mr Flatley were initially a quarter of the way back from the top of the terracing but ended near the front close to a perimeter fence.
Phillip Woodward, a police inspector on duty at the match on April 15 1989, said he went into pen 3 with other officers in the aftermath of the crush and was confronted with a number of bodies on the floor near the front of the perimeter gate.
He said: “It was just quite a horrendous scene ... it was just like walking into hell. I saw a young boy probably aged about 10 among a pile of bodies.”
He told the inquests sitting in Warrington he thought Jon-Paul was dead “because of his appearance, the colour of his face and having been a policeman for a long time.”
The inquests continue today.