London - The head of the police in charge at the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in which 96 people died said the force got it "catastrophically wrong" as he apologised "unreservedly" Tuesday.
South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton said the force "unequivocally" accepted the findings of an inquest jury which concluded Tuesday that the victims had been unlawfully killed following gross negligence by the police.
Football fans were crushed to death after police opened an exit gate, allowing Liverpool supporters to surge into fenced-in pens on a terrace at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, northern England.
"I want to make it absolutely clear that we unequivocally accept the verdict of unlawful killing and the wider findings reached by the jury in the Hillsborough inquests," Crompton said outside the force's headquarters in Sheffield.
"South Yorkshire Police got the policing of the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough catastrophically wrong.
"The force failed the victims and failed their families.
"I want to apologise unreservedly to the families and all those affected."
There are two ongoing criminal investigations into the Hillsborough disaster -- focusing on the tragedy itself and allegations of corruption in the aftermath -- that are expected to be completed in December or January.
"The Hillsborough disaster changed the way in which major sporting events are policed and very many lessons have been learnt," said Crompton.
"With improvements in training, communications and technology, it is almost impossible to consider how the same set of circumstances could arise again today.
"We will now take time to carefully reflect on the implications of the verdicts."