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State finds Notre Dame at fault in student videographer's death

March 15, 2011

A four-month investigation into a student's death has found the University of Notre Dame did not maintain safe working conditions and failed to heed wind warnings when the hydraulic lift he was standing on to film football practice toppled over in 51-mph gusts.

Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Lori Torres said Tuesday that the school will be fined $22,500 for five violations, including failing to properly train Declan Sullivan, the 20-year-old junior film student from the Chicago suburb of Long Grove, Ill. who died in the Oct. 27 accident.

She said the university also was at fault for allowing Sullivan to be in the lift after the National Weather Service had issued a wind advisory.

She said Notre Dame knowingly exposed Sullivan and two other videographers to unsafe conditions. She said the school has been fined $55,000 for that violation.

The school has until April 7 to respond to the state report.

Less than an hour before the incident that led to his death, Sullivan had tweeted his concerns about what he described as "terrifying" weather.

''Gusts of wind up to 60 mph today will be fun at work ... I guess I've lived long enough."

Notre Dame has since halted the use of hydraulic lifts to film football practices and will install remote-controlled cameras on poles at football practice fields.

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.

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.

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