Investigation begins in death of Notre Dame student filming football practice
The death of a Notre Dame junior who fell from a tower while filming football practice is being investigated by Indiana's workplace safety agency.
Declan Sullivan, a 20-year-old from Long Grove, Ill., died Wednesday at a South Bend, Ind., hospital after the scissor lift holding him aloft fell in winds gusting to over 50 mph. He tweeted before practice: "Gusts of wind up to 60 mph well today will be fun at work... I guess I've lived long enough. :-/ " and at 3:06 p.m.: "Holy [expletive] holy [expletive] this is terrifying." The accident occurred at about 3:50 p.m. CDT.
Marc Lotter, a spokesman for the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the agency has classified the student's death a workplace fatality and has an investigator on the scene.
Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame's athletic director, offered few answers in a press conference Thursday afternoon. "There is a lot to learn here, we will learn it all, we will learn it in an expeditious manner," he said. This is a time of extraordinary sorrow and grief. As a father of four with two of my children away at college, I can only imagine how difficult this is."
IOSHA will investigate whether the tower was being operated properly and whether it should have been used considering that winds were gusting at 51 mph. South Bend was under a wind advisory until 9 p.m. and, although it is not known which manufacturer built the lift, manuals for similar models say they should not be used when winds are stronger than 25 mph. The hydraulic lift, when extended, reaches just higher than a football goalpost.
The lift crumpled a fence and bushes as it fell in a gust, landing in the middle of a road. Football practice reportedly continued for about another 30 minutes.
Swarbrick, who said he was present at the time, said the weather was "normal" until the gust blew gear around the field. He said he heard a crash and saw the lift lying on the adjacent street.
During his news conference, Swarbrick was asked what regulations were in place and answered: "We want to make sure we understand what they were, how they were implemented, who was involved." He was asked who was responsible for practice and deciding whether to use the lifts and said, "People are being interviewed and asked those questions."
Sullivan's parents met with Notre Dame officials Thursday morning. "We'll be asking those questions, too," Sullivan's uncle, Mike Miley, said. "But right now, we're grieving a loss."
Sullivan is survived by his parents, a brother in high school and a sister who also attends Notre Dame, according to Miley.
Notre Dame officials have decided to play their game Saturday against Tulsa, but a pep rally has been canceled. Members of the football team will wear decals honoring Sullivan on their helmets and there will be a moment of silence.
| October 28, 2010; 2:46 PM ET
Categories: College football
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