Colleges and Universities and Education & Workforce Development and College Sports and Notre Dame and Sports Business

Notre Dame to end use of hydraulic lifts to film practice

March 8, 2011

The University of Notre Dame is halting the use of hydraulic lifts to film football practices and will install remote-controlled cameras instead as part of a safety push spurred by an October accident in which a student filmmaker was killed when a lift toppled, university officials said Tuesday.

The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, said the new system fulfills a pledge made after junior Declan Sullivan died.

"I said in the days after Declan's death that we would do everything in our power to make changes to ensure that such an accident does not happen again — here or elsewhere," Jenkins said in a statement obtained by The Associated Press.

The new system will include four cameras mounted on 50-foot poles at the university's football practice fields. The cameras will record the practices and transmit them using fiber optics to a control room across the street in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, where the football offices are housed.

The university will continue to use two permanent structures on the sidelines of the practice fields for filming.

The changes come as the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration continues to investigate what caused the lift holding Sullivan to fall as he filmed practice on Oct. 27. The National Weather Service reported gusts of up to 51 mph at the time. State officials have said they are looking at whether federal and state workplace safety rules and industry standards might have been violated, including a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule barring workers from using scaffolds during storms or high winds.

Authorities also are reviewing whether Sullivan, 20, of Long Grove, Ill., received training before using the lift.

Notre Dame is conducting its own investigation and has hired Peter Likins, former president of the University of Arizona, to provide an independent review.

Jenkins has said the university is responsible for Sullivan's death because it failed to protect him.

"Declan Sullivan was entrusted to our care, and we failed to keep him safe," Jenkins wrote in an e-mail to students and staff 10 days after the accident.

The new cameras are expected to be in operation by the start of spring football practice on March 23.

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