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Notre Dame scraps hydraulic lifts after death

- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SOUTH BEND, IND. (AP) - Notre Dame announced Tuesday that it will no longer use hydraulic lifts for videographers at football practices, five months after a student fell to his death when one of the machines toppled over on a windy day.

The school said it will instead use remote-controlled cameras _ a system The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, said fulfills a pledge made after 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 prepared statement.

The Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration is still investigating what caused the lift holding Sullivan to fall as he filmed practice on Oct. 27. The National Weather Service reported gusts of up to 51 mph at the time. State officials have said they are looking at whether federal and state workplace safety rules and industry standards might have been violated, including a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule barring workers from using scaffolds during storms or high winds.

Authorities also are reviewing whether Sullivan, 20, of Long Grove, Ill., received training before using the lift.

Notre Dame is conducting its own investigation and Peter Likins, former president of the University of Arizona, has agreed to provide an independent review.

The new system will include four cameras mounted on 50-foot-high poles and operated from a control room across the street in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, where the football offices are housed. Workers on Tuesday were putting the first pole into a 7-foot-deep hole to anchor it in place.

On each side of the boxes that hold the cameras is a shamrock with the initials DS in the middle to honor Sullivan -- the same insignia the Fighting Irish players wore on their helmets in the games following Sullivan's death.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said the school believes it will be the first to use such a remote video system at outdoor practices. The system was designed by XOS Digital in the wake of Sullivan's death.

"We went to XOS last November and said, 'Is there any way to eliminate the use of hydraulic lifts?'" Brown said.

The challenge, he said, was to eliminate vibrations on a camera so high up. The boxes holding the cameras have a heating element to control the temperature and there is a wiper to clear the lens.

The university will continue to use two permanent structures on the sidelines of the practice fields for filming.

Jenkins has said the university is responsible for Sullivan's death because it failed to protect him. A message seeking comment was left Tuesday by The Associated Press for Sullivan's uncle, Mike Miley, who has served as family spokesman.

Jenkins said the university is talking with the Sullivan family about a memorial for Sullivan.

"We are committed to memorializing Declan's zest for life and presence at Notre Dame in a meaningful and lasting way," Jenkins said.

The new cameras are expected to be in operation by the start of spring football practice on March 23.

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