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Notre Dame Student Dies in Campus Lift Collapse

A 20-year-old University of Notre Dame student was fatally injured Oct. 27 when his lift collapsed while he was filming a football practice.

Declan Sullivan, a junior from Long Grove, Ill., died while filming the football practice for the Department of Athletics from a hydraulic scissor lift at the university’s LaBar Practice Complex. The incident occurred at approximately 4:51 p.m.

According to media reports, the area experienced strong winds that day, including gusts up to 50 mph and more. Sullivan had expressed concerns about the wind and filming in the lift through his Twitter feed earlier in the afternoon. He called his experience and the conditions “terrifying” not long before the lift collapsed.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation. Indiana OSHA has deemed the incident a workplace fatality. Indiana Department of Labor Public Information Officer Marc Lotter told EHS Today that an OSHA official was on the scene Oct. 28 and that the agency would conduct an investigation.

In an Oct. 28 media briefing, University Athletics Director Jack Swarbrick described the weather conditions as normal at the time he crossed the field just moments before the incident. He said that “practice was normal” and “plays were being conducted with no difficulty.” Then, he added, he “experienced a pretty extraordinary burst of wind … things started flying by me that had otherwise been stationary through the practice.”

Swarbrick was unable to provide additional information about the decisions to hold practice outside or to use the scissor lift during practice.

“We are committed first and foremost to completing an absolutely thorough and complete investigation,” he said. “There is a lot to learn here, and we will learn it all.”

The Oct. 30 Notre Dame home game against the University of Tulsa will continue as scheduled in Sullivan’s honor, Swarbrick said. The university’s pep rally and Oct. 29 football luncheon were canceled.

“Declan Sullivan was a bright, energetic, dedicated young man and we will miss him greatly,” said Notre Dame University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. Jenkins presided over a special mass held Oct. 28 in Sullivan’s memory.

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