Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield gave the order to open exit gates because he thought there would be loss of life outside, an ex-officer told his trial.
The former South Yorkshire Police chief superintendent (75) was "deep in thought" before making the decision, Robert McRobbie told Preston Crown Court yesterday.
The jury heard Mr Duckenfield ordered the gates open after crowds built up outside ahead of the FA Cup game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest on April 15 1989. Once through the gate, Liverpool supporters were able to head down a tunnel to the already full central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace.
Mr McRobbie said he had been in the police control box with Mr Duckenfield as an observer, in civilian clothes, because he had recently been transferred to the division.
He said he remembered hearing three radio requests from Roger Marshall, the superintendent based at the Leppings Lane turnstiles, asking for gates to be opened to relieve the crush outside.
"It was more of a demand than a request. It was more frantic," he said. "It must have incorporated the words people were going to be hurt if the gates weren't opened."
He said he could not recall any advice being given by other officers, such as Superintendent Bernard Murray, the ground commander.
"Mr Duckenfield was deep in thought at that time," he said.
"But I recall Mr Murray being stood in front of him with a radio in his hand asking for a decision so he could relay it to Mr Marshall."
He told the court Mr Duckenfield considered the situation before giving his decision.
Mr Duckenfield denies manslaughter by gross negligence.
The trial continues.