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Over eight months after 20-year-old Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan was tragically killed while filming football practice, the state of Indiana and the university have reached a settlement with regard to the incident. From CBS Sports:
Notre Dame will pay a $42,000 fine for six safety violations, make an undisclosed contribution to a memorial for a student videographer who died at football practice and start a campaign on the hazards of scissor lifts as part of a settlement with the state of Indiana.
The fine was originally set at $77,500, but as a condition of the settlement, the charge against the school was reduced from a "knowing violation" to a "serious violation." According to Sullivan's uncle, the family is pleased with the agreement.
"There can be no better way to remember Declan than to help others avoid future tragedies," Sullivan's uncle, Mike Miley, wrote by e-mail.
The University of Notre Dame released their full internal report on the October 2010 death of student videographer Declan Sullivan today. The findings shy away from blaming a single individual for Sullivan's fall from a hydraulic lift while fliming the Notre Dame football team in a fall practice. Sullivan's death, according to University President John Jenkins, was the result of a combination of factors including sudden and unpredictable weather conditions and a lack of effective protocols regarding lift use in inclement weather.
After a thorough and painstaking study in which numerous university personnel were interviewed and external experts consulted, we have reached the conclusion that no one acted in disregard for safety. Each individual involved based his decisions and actions that day on the best information available at the time and in accord with the procedures that were in place.
The principal factors in Sullivan's death were, according to the report:
The report did not find any individual members of the Notre Dame program responsible for Sullivan's death. President Jenkins did make these remarks in the opening, however.
Sullivan, who was a 20 year old junior at Notre Dame, tweeted "I guess I've lived long enough" from the tower less than 45 minutes before his death. The University is currently appealing an OSHA fine in the Sullivan case, and is facing much larger financial damages in any potential civil suit rulings against Notre Dame in future litigation resulting from Sullivan's death--an institutional culpability this report seems to assume on first reading.
Many individuals and departments share the collective responsibility for the inadequacy o f the procedures that led to this tragedy. The university, then, is collectively responsible. Insofar as the President is responsible for the university as a whole, I am the individual who bears the most responsibility, and I accept that responsibility.
Let me conclude by expressing to the Sullivan family our deepest sorrow for the loss of Declan. You entrusted him to our care, and we failed to keep him safe.
Almost six months after Declan Sullivan's Oct. 27, 2010 death, Notre Dame will release the results of its internal investigation into the fatal accident that killed Sullivan, a student videographer for the Fighting Irish.
The Chicago Tribune's Brian Hamilton writes that many of the powers that be at Notre Dame will be present at a Monday news conference to discuss the findings.
Notre Dame president Rev. John I. Jenkins, athletic director Jack Swarbrick, football coach Brian Kelly and Peter Likins, former president at the University of Arizona and an independent reviewer of Notre Dame's investigation, are among those that will attend Monday's news conference.
Kelly and Jenkins, in particular, came under fire after it was revealed that Sullivan was filming Notre Dame practice from a scissor lift on that day despite high winds that can create dangerous instability for the structure.
Notre Dame has already been fined $77,500 by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which found that the university "did not establish and maintain conditions of work that were reasonably safe for its employees."
In a move sure to do nothing to improve their standing in the public eye following the death of student football videographer Declan Sullivan last fall, Notre Dame is contesting an Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration ruling handed down in March that detailed multiple instances of irresponsible safety practices. University and OSHA officials speaking to the Chicago Tribune characterize this development as a benign move on the part of the school:
"Notre Dame really is trying to live up to the things they said in the media," [IOSHA spokeswoman Stephanie] McFarland said. "They want to make sure something like this never happens again."
A university spokesman said the short timelines imposed by state statute required Notre Dame to formally contest the ruling so the two sides could continue talking. He declined to comment on the specific discussions, but agreed they had been positive.
Perhaps, in the intervening time, the university's been able to get its story straight. Recall the inconsistencies revealed in the documentation of the case between what Notre Dame told investigators and what was contained in the school's own written records.
The university is currently facing a $77,500 fine for six levied OSHA violations.
The investigation into the death of Notre Dame student videographer Declan Sullivan by Indiana's Occupational Health and Safety Administration has wrapped, and the agency has announced it will fine the university $77,500 for various workplace safety violations. Sullivan, 20, died last October when high winds knocked over the hydraulic lift he was standing on to film a Fighting Irish football practice.
The university was hit with six violations in all, including "knowingly exposing its employees to unsafe conditions," (Sullivan was filming during a National Weather Service high wind advisory), and the statement from OSHA, as you might expect, is a grave one:
Notre Dame did not establish and maintain conditions of work that were reasonably safe for its employees that were free from recognized hazards that caused or were likely to cause death or serious injury.
Notre Dame has banned the use of scissor lifts for videographers' use, and will use remote-controlled cameras to film practices in the future.
Over four months removed from a tragic accident that claimed the life of Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan, the school announced Tuesday that it will discontinue the use of hydraulic lifts during practices. From the National Football Post's Brad Biggs:
The school will install remote-controlled cameras on 50-foot poles and continue to utilize two permanent structures for filming, according to the report. The new equipment should be ready for the beginning of spring practices later this month.
Sullivan, age 20, was filming practice for the Notre Dame football program when heavy gusts of wind blew over the tower. Biggs also notes in his report that the school is still investigating the accident. Officials have not yet announced a determination of whether Sullivan had been trained to use the hydraulic lift.
For more on Notre Dame athletics, visit our Notre Dame blog, Rakes of Mallow.
On Friday afternoon, Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins sent an e-mail to his school's students to address the tragic accident that claimed the life of 20-year-old Declan Sullivan. On October 27, Sullivan was filming a Notre Dame football practice from a film tower in hazardous winds when the tower toppled over. In the e-mail, Jenkins explicitly assigned responsibility for the accident to Notre Dame.
We are conducting an investigation and we must be careful not to pre-judge its results, but I will say this: Declan Sullivan was entrusted to our care, and we failed to keep him safe. We at Notre Dame - and ultimately I, as President - are responsible. Words cannot express our sorrow to the Sullivan family and to all involved.
In the aftermath of the accident, some blamed coach Brian Kelly, who made the decision to practice outdoors rather than in the program's indoor facility. Jenkins also states in the e-mail that he stands firmly behind Kelly.
Finally, in light of what I believe to be unfounded and unfair commentary and speculation, I want to say something about Coach Brian Kelly. Coach Kelly was hired not only because of his football expertise, but because we believed his character and values accord with the highest standards of Notre Dame. All we have seen since he came to Notre Dame, and everything we have learned in our investigation to date, have confirmed that belief. For those reasons I am confident that Coach Kelly has a bright future leading our football program.
Jenkins also noted that the school is still conducting an investigation which may lead to institutional ramifications and changes in safety-related policies, but did not say when he expected the investigation to be finished.
Almost a week after the tragic death of Declan Sullivan, the University of Notre Dame is facing more damages to the university. The University faces compensatory damages from $15 to $20 million.
According to Forbes, these damages will be levied if the university, head coach Brian Kelly or athletic director Jack Swarbrick or any others associated with the facilities are found to have acted negligently in allowing Sullivan to videotape Wednesday’s football practice from a lift during 50 mph winds. Punitive damages could also be levied for an additional $45 to $60 million.
But just as you could conclude that it would have been reasonable for Mr. Sullivan to voluntarily seek shelter in light of his concerns, you could also argue that it would have been similarly reasonable for any one of the numerous on-site adults (e.g. coaches, administrators, facility staff) to approach Mr. Sullivan and mandate that he cease his elevated videography services due to inclimate weather for safety’s sake.
The reality is that most 20-year old employees of major Division I college football programs work in awe or fear (or both) of their coaching staffs and/or student-athlete peers. They are simply dedicated workers who show their school spirit by taking great pride in their job. As such, they are not likely to voluntarily ’sit one out’ unless approached by an adult who supposedly has a better grasp on the ‘big picture’ and who can play a nurturing and protective parental role when faced with adversity or unfamiliar circumstances.
After Notre Dame's loss to Tulsa on Saturday, coach Brian Kelly spent some of his postgame press conference addressing student assistant Declan Sullivan's death while videotaping practice on Wednesday.
"On Wednesday I made the decision that we could have a productive and safe practice outdoors. Productive, because the conditions were such, though windy, not unlike practices I've had at other universities including Notre Dame...the next thing that was important is that it was a safe session.
"There are systems in place to make certain and deal with issues of safety and clearly in this instance they failed. We're in the process of examining what are those systems in place and looking for those answers."
"(The loss to Tulsa) was a very difficult loss but it certainly pales in comparison to the unimaginable sorrow we had this week.
"As a father of three I can only imagine the sorrow that accompanies the loss of your son. It's been a very difficult time for me and everybody in our football family.
"From a personal perspective it's been a very difficult week for all of us. I focused strictly on the Sullivan family, our football family and my family."
Following the tragic death of Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan this week, the Irish offered a tribute to the 20-year-old on Saturday. From WNDU:
During Saturday's game, both the Irish and the Golden Hurricane also wore decals on their helmets in the shape of a shamrock, with the initials "DS" in the middle.
School president John Jenkins offered a prayer from midfield before the game. The mood was predictably somber in South Bend.
As Notre Dame football prepares to face Tulsa, the Fighting Irish family remembers Declan Sullivan, the student videographer who died Wednesday while filming practice. The university held a special Mass honoring Sullivan Thursday, and has canceled a previously scheduled pep rally. Notre Dame's president, who conducted the Mass, spoke to reporters about the campus' loss:
"There is no greater sadness for a university community than the death of one of its students," Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president, said in a media briefing Thursday afternoon. "There is certainly no greater sadness for a family than the loss of a son or brother. It is with a sense of that double sadness that, on behalf our university, I express our deepest condolences to Declan’s family, friends and classmates."
The Observer, the student newspaper to which Sullivan contributed, has also published a special remembrance section in his honor, with stories from classmates, photos, accolades from coworkers, and a collection of his work at the paper. You can view the entire section in .pdf form on the Observer's website.
Notre Dame's game against Tulsa on Saturday will go on as regularly scheduled in the wake of student assistant Declan Sullivan's passing, but the school will honor Sullivan with helmet decals and a moment of silence.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told reporters that he was on the field at the time of Sullivan's tragic accident. The scissor lift Sullivan was standing on toppled because of high winds during Wednesday's practice. Sullivan's role as a student assistant involved him standing on the lift to videotape practice.
Swarbrick also said that the football team returned to the field after the accident to let emergency workers attend to Sullivan.
Saturday's tributes will likely be the public's view into Notre Dame's mourning, but the school also has a remembrance planned for tonight.
Notre Dame plays Tulsa on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern in a home game at Notre Dame Stadium. The game will be broadcast by NBC.
During Notre Dame's football practice on Wednesday, a film tower toppled over and came crashing to the ground, killing Declan Sulliavan, a junior at the university. He was 20 years old.
Sullivan, originally from Long Grove, IL, was atop a hydraulic scissorlift, filming the football practice as a videographer for the Department of Athletics, when the tower fell, around 4:50 P.M. He was taken to South Bend's Memorial Hospital, where he later died.
Sullivan was double majoring in marketing and Film, Television & Theatre, and was also an contributor to the Scene section of The Observer, an independent Notre Dame student newspaper.
University President Fr. John Jenkins notified the students at Notre Dame in an e-mail Wednesday night.
"No words can convey the shock and grief we all are experiencing. Declan was a well-liked, bright and enthusiastic film and marketing student and a valued member of the Notre Dame family. His death is a tremendous loss that will be felt very deeply and we share in your grief during this incredibly difficult time."
An investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the accident, though it is seemingly apparent that it was caused by wind gusts that exceeded 50 mph on Wednesday (weather conditions similar to those that forced the Notre Dame football team to practice indoors on Tuesday). Sullivan himself was wary of the strong winds, and expressed those fears with truly eerie updates to Twitter shortly before the accident.
It's estimated that the tower was roughly 50 feet above the ground before tipping over. The South Bend Tribune reports that according to a local meteorologist, "the highest winds of the day occurred just before 5 P.M." At that time the highest sustained wind was just under 40 mph, with the peak gust at 53 mph. Various websites of both manufacturers and distributors of similar towers warn against its use in windy conditions, with one in particular stating "that the lift should never be used in wind speeds greater than 25 mph."
Those who knew Sullivan remembered him as enthusiastic and fun-loving.
Junior Marc Anthony Rosa, who was a friend of Sullivan, said describing Sullivan was an "impossible task."
"He's an unbelievably unique soul that, when you meet him, he's completely addicting to be around. He's nonstop energy. He's like no one else you've ever met," he said. "Although he may not be here, his soul is impossible to leave this campus and the people who've known him."
There is a media briefing at 2 P.M. ET on Thursday, where University vice president for public affairs and communication Jan Botz, University president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and University athletics director Jack Swarbrick will speak.
The school has planned a Mass of remembrance for Sullivan, to be held Thursday at 10 P.M., in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
A 20-year-old Notre Dame student who was filming the football team's practice died Wednesday in an accident when a film tower toppled over.
The student, who has not been identified pending the notification of family members, was filming the practice of the university's Department of Athletics.
The accident happened at approximately 4:50 p.m. at the LaBar Practice Complex, located on the southeast side of campus. The student was filming Notre Dame football practice for the Department of Athletics from a hydraulic scissor lift when the incident occurred. The student was transported to Memorial Hospital in South Bend, where he later died.
"We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss," said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. "Our hearts go out to the student’s family and friends and our prayers and profound sympathies are with them during this incredibly difficult time. The loss of someone so young is a terrible shock and a great sadness. Our entire community shares in the family’s grief."
The cause of the accident is under investigation. The University is making pastoral care and grief counseling available to students.
According to the National Weather Service, winds in the area were gusting at 51 mph, but the exact cause of the accident has not yet been determined. The video lift, which has an adjustable height, was stretched across a nearby street.
It wasn't clear how close players were to the tower when it collapsed, but post-practice interviews were canceled.
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