Notre Dame Fined $77.5K In Student’s Death

UPDATED 03/15/11 5:13 p.m.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CBS) — The University of Notre Dame has been fined $77,500 in the death of 20-year-old student Declan Sullivan, who was killed when a hydraulic lift fell.

Sullivan, a student videographer, was killed Oct. 27 of last year, when a scissor lift he was on toppled over while he was filming football practice. The National Weather Service reported gusts of up to 51 mph at the time.

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Indiana Department of Labor Commissioner Lori Torres said Tuesday that the school will be fined $55,000 for knowingly exposing Sullivan and two other videographers to unsafe conditions, and $22,500 for five other violations.

“We found Notre Dame did not establish and maintain conditions of work that were reasonably safe for its employees,” Torres said. “By directing its untrained student videographers to use the scissor lifts during a period of time when the National Weather Service had issued an active wind advisory for northern Indiana, the university knowingly exposed its employees to unsafe conditions.”

As CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports, after the fines were announced, Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins issued a statement that said, in part: “We will study the details very carefully and take the actions necessary to protect the ongoing safety of our students and staff.”

“None of these findings can do anything to replace the loss of a young man with boundless energy and creativity,” Jenkins added. “As I said last fall, we failed to keep him safe, and for that we remain profoundly sorry.”

Last week, the university said they will no longer mount students on hydraulic lifts to videotape football practice. University officials said from now on, a remote video system will be used to tape practices.

The university says four cameras are being placed atop 50-foot-high poles. The system will be ready when spring practice opens March 23.

Sullivan, of Long Grove, tweeted his fears about the danger of the wind within an hour of his death.

“Gusts of wind up to 60mph well today will be fun at work… I guess I’ve lived long enough :-/” Sullivan wrote in one post on Twitter and Facebook.

The sarcasm stopped about an hour later, when he wrote, “Holy f— holy f— this is terrifying.”

Sullivan’s family issued a statement saying that they were focused on make sure a similar tragedy never happens again.

“Our family supports the efforts by the University of Notre Dame to halt the use of hydraulic lifts to film football practices and install remote-controlled cameras. We are confident that Notre Dame will address the additional issues raised in the IOSHA report,” they said.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Mark, Sterling

    I guess the Sullivan family just found out how much the Indiana OSHA thinks their son’s life is worth. This whole situation just gets more vile and reprehensible with every detail. How people AREN’T more angry with Notre Dame and their football operation is sickening to me. Re-reading those tweets….I’m seriously nauseous….

    • StupidPeopleFTW

      Amazing, they’ll pay less for this kids life, than they would have for a player’s scholarship.

  • Annie

    This is really a terrible tragedy. We all should be praying for the family and the fellow students involved.
    Nothre Dame is a Catholic institution and should be training priests and nuns for the ministry. This tragedy should signal God speaking and we all should turn to Him and llisten more carefully.
    We all wonder what the Pope says about all of this.

    • Enlightened

      So God killed this kid? I thought it was irresponsibility and negligence. Thanks for clearing that up.

    • StupidPeopleFTW

      A lift falling over in high winds is god speaking? Really?


  • ljo

    It is a sad tragedy, I guess I just wonder, if he had time to tweet and facebook while he was up there, why didn’t he have time to call someone to lower the lift and get him the heck out of there when the wind gusts were so bad that he was scared for his life? Common sense would dictate that you should not be in that dangerous situation. You wouldn’t get me up there on a windy day, job or no job, personal safety comes first.

  • Alpha

    Notre Dame shouldn’t pay anything. They had rules about wind speed and the use of the lift. It is a sad tragedy, but not Notre Dame’s fault.

    • StupidPeopleFTW

      ^ and this, kids, is why you shouldn’t smoke crack!

  • Pope Paul

    I knew ND was going down the tubes when they let the anti-christ speak at the University .

  • Hiroshi

    Fine them two million dollars for the life of one student so the next time it happens it will turn to God and hear Him say… train young peo¡le for the ministry.Too many sinners are on the street to save their souls should be the goal of all Catholic institutions.

  • sprunky

    All I can say is that I hope Notre Dame paid the family for any and all expenses caused by this kid’s death. The authority figures responsible for the video crew are fully responsible. However, I’m glad the school is adding safety precautions and I hope other schools will follow suit.

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