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.