State fines Notre Dame $77K after student’s death
SOUTH BEND, IND. (AP) - The 20-year-old Notre Dame student who was killed when the hydraulic lift he was on fell over as he filmed the football team on a windy day had expressed displeasure about practice being held outside, according to a state report released Tuesday.
Declan Sullivan wasn’t happy when he found out the team would be practicing outside last Oct. 27, assistant video coordinator Reuel Joaquin told an Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigator.
Less than an hour earlier, 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,” he wrote.
Joaquin also told the investigator that he and video coordinator Tim Collins had decided not to put a female videographer on a lift until midway through practice because it wasn’t necessary and “so we would not scare her.”
The details were released as IOSHA fined Notre Dame $77,500 for six safety violations tied to Sullivan’s death, including knowingly putting its employees in an unsafe situation. The junior from Long Grove, Ill., was killed when the hydraulic lift toppled in gusts of up to 53 mph while he was filming football practice.
The Rev. John Jenkins, university president, said the school would study the IOSHA report and take necessary actions to protect students and staff. The school announced last week it was replacing the lifts with remote-controlled cameras.
“None of these findings can do anything to replace the loss of a young man with boundless energy and creativity. As I said last fall, we failed to keep him safe, and for that we remain profoundly sorry,” Jenkins said in a prepared statement.
The school is conducting its own investigation.
The report includes dozens of pages, including interviews with other student videographers and Notre Dame officials. One document, written by a state investigator, describes the film Sullivan shot that day.
“(T)he pants, shirts and jackets of the coaches are blowing and whipping in the wind,” it says. “The goalposts in front of the camera are moving and the one red flag (on top) is extending straight outward.”
The state said Notre Dame failed to maintain safe working conditions or heed National Weather Service warnings.
“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 at a news conference in Indianapolis.
Torres said there was no indication that Sullivan expressed concern while up on the lift, which was extended 39 feet. Torres said two other student videographers were on the elevated lifts in different areas of the practice area when the incident happened.