Notre Dame AD heard tower crash after wind gust

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SOUTH BEND, IND. (AP) - Notre Dame’s athletic director says there was an “extraordinary burst of wind” on the football field before he heard a tower crash to the ground, killing a student who was videotaping practice.

Jack Swarbrick talked to reporters on Thursday, a day after Declan (DEK-lahn) Sullivan died when the scissor lift he was on fell.

Swarbrick says the wind caused towels and a Gatorade cooler to fly in the air and the netting on the football goal post to bend.

He says he didn’t see the tower fall but heard a crash. He says the team and others responded to Sullivan, who was then taken by ambulance to a South Bend hospital. Swarbrick says he received a call from the ambulance that Sullivan was no longer breathing.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ Workplace safety officials on Thursday were investigating the death of a Notre Dame student who was videotaping football practice when the tower he was in toppled as high wind gusts swept through Indiana.

Declan Sullivan, a 20-year-old junior from Long Grove, Ill., died Wednesday at a South Bend hospital after being transported from the LaBar practice complex.

The National Weather Service said winds in the area were gusting to 51 mph at the time when the hydraulic scissor lift, which can be lowered or raised depending on needs, fell over. The football team had practiced indoors the day before because of the blustery conditions caused by a fierce storm.

The university did not return calls seeking comment on Wednesday, and it was not clear who authorized Sullivan to go up in the scissor lift to videotape Wednesday’s practice. It also was not clear who made the scissor lift. But one manufacturer of scissor lifts, HHS Wire, said on its website that the device should not be used in winds above 25 mph.

Sullivan’s parents were meeting with Notre Dame officials on Thursday, and the family had many questions about his death, his uncle Mike Miley told the Chicago Tribune.

“We’re still digesting the news ourselves,” Miley told the Tribune.

The student, who also wrote for the student newspaper, reportedly posted messages on his Facebook page just before the tower fell, expressing his concerns with being on the lift with high winds. His uncle told the newspaper that the family has decided to keep his Facebook page open so friends can post messages.

“I was satisfied to learn that he was going into a media-related field. I could just see that he was having so much fun taking pictures and filming,” Miley told the Tribune.

Matt Gamber, editor in chief of The Observer, the independent student newspaper for the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College, said Sullivan was majoring in marketing and film and had written about arts and entertainment events for the newspaper over two years.

“He was an extremely enthusiastic and a really driven kid, and that really showed through for us in his writing. He had a lot of excitement and energy for the events and subjects he covered,” Gamber said.

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