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Probe: Notre Dame at fault in student’s death
SOUTH BEND, Ind. | Indiana regulators fined Notre Dame $77,500 on Tuesday for six safety violations in the October death of a 20-year-old student who was killed when the hydraulic lift he was on toppled over in high winds while he was filming football practice.
“The evidence overwhelmingly demonstrated that the university made a decision to utilize its scissor lifts in known adverse weather conditions,” agency Commissioner Lori Torres said.
Declan Sullivan, a junior film student from Long Grove, Ill., died Oct. 27 after the lift he was on fell over. Less than an hour earlier, he 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,” he wrote.
The scissor lift was not supposed to be used in winds above 28 mph, but the weather service had issued a warning saying winds of 25 mph to 35 mph were expected with gusts of up to 45 mph. Torres said the university was at fault for allowing Sullivan to be in the lift after the weather service had issued the advisory.
The school has until April 7 to accept the findings and pay the fines, contest the safety orders or meet with the agency.
University spokesman Dennis Brown said the school had no immediate response because officials were reviewing the report. The Rev. John Jenkins, the university president, said in an e-mail in November to students, faculty, staff and alumni that the school was responsible for Sullivan’s death because it failed to protect him.
Sullivan’s parents, Barry and Alison, issued a statement saying they appreciated the thorough investigation.
“This report is an important step in preventing future accidents, but its findings do not change the fact that Declan is not with us,” they wrote.
The other violations included a failure to make annual, monthly or weekly inspections of the lifts for more than a year; a failure to have the scissor lift serviced as required by the manufacturer; and a failure to have an operator’s manual on the unit. The lift was also missing some warning labels while others were faded and weathered.
Notre Dame announced last week that it will no longer use hydraulic lifts for videographers at football practices and has begun installing remote-controlled cameras at its outdoor practice fields. The new cameras are expected to be in operation by the start of spring football practice on March 23.
Associated Press writer Hasan Dudar in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
By Donald Lambro
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