Notre Dame Officials' Use Of Outdated Wind Study May Have Contributed To Student Death

Apr 18, 2011, 10:08 by John Steele

An investigation into the October 27 death of Notre Dame videographer Declan Sullivan has revealed that officials checked the National Weather Service wind report too early to prevent Sullivan's lift from tipping over.

Sullivan, a junior film student from Long Grove, Ill., was killed when the 40-foot lift he was using to film a football practice fell over in a 53 mph wind gust.

According to the Associated Press, staff members used a wind study issued by the National Weather Service at 1:54 p.m. that day showing 23 mph winds in the area with 29 mph gusts. A new NWS report was issued at 2:54 p.m., that showed winds of 29 mph with 38 mph gusts. No one check this report and, at 3:45 p.m. Sullivan began operating the lift that would eventually cause his death.

The school released the details in a report summarizing its own investigation into the accident. While there were clearly mistakes made, the report found that no one person was responsible.

three people were most involved in advising coach Brian Kelly on whether it was safe to practice outside: director of football operations Chad Klunder, then-head athletic trainer Jim Russ and Tim Collins, director of football video and film. None of them saw the weather report that indicated the lift was unsafe.

But Sullivan did. The report said Sullivan checked the weather before practice at and saw a warning indicating the possibility of gusts up to 60 mph. He didn't know that the lifts would tip over at that velocity.

The report was released two days after spring football practiced wrapped up and about a month after the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration fined Notre Dame $77,500 for six safety violations tied to Sullivan's death, including knowingly putting its employees in an unsafe situation and failing to heed weather service warnings.