Notre Dame said today that the staff responsible for deciding whether or not it was safe to hold football practice outside used out-of-date weather information to make their decision back on Oct. 27, which ultimately resulted in a student videographer’s death. Declan Sullivan, a junior film student, fell to his death after a 40-foot hydraulic lift was blown over by a 53 mph gust of wind. After the initial investigation, it was determined that the staff members were most likely using the readings from the earlier weather report at 1:54 p.m. showing there were 23 mph winds in the area with 29 mph gusts. The staff was unaware that at 2:54 p.m. the National Weather Service had reported winds of 29 mph with 38 mph gusts.
Practice was set to begin at 3:45 p.m., so it’s obvious that the wind gusts became stronger as the day went on, and at the time of the accident at 4:54 p.m., the weather service was reporting 33 mph winds with 51 mph gusts. The school said that there was an unwritten rule of lowering the lifts when wind gusts exceeded 35 mph and that the other two lifts being used that day were less susceptible to tipping than the one Sullivan was on. But an engineering analysis also showed that “wind speeds significantly higher than 35 mph were necessary in order to tip the lift.”
There are the specifics of the accident that resulted in the student’s death. Now, let’s get to the obvious points. Nobody, and stress the word nobody, should be 40 feet in the air when it is that noticeably windy outside. It is common sense and I don’t know how a so-called “educated” staff at an institution such as Notre Dame couldn’t figure that out. And now someone is dead because of their ignorance.
There is absolutely no excuse for this. I don’t care if they weren’t aware of the updated weather report stating there were 38 mph gusts instead of 29 mph. Nobody should be allowed on a 40-foot lift in either situation. It’s one thing if you’re videotaping from the ground in that kind of weather, but it’s just asinine to allow someone to tape from a lift that high. And as many people that could’ve had a hand in preventing this accident, you would think at least one would be smart enough to tell the student to not get on the lift.
The worst thing about this whole situation is that Sullivan himself kind of saw this coming. Here is an excerpt from an article by the Associated Press that was featured on ESPN.com earlier today, “The IOSHA report quoted Sullivan as telling assistant video coordinator Reuel Joaquin ‘Aw, man, this sucks,’ when he was told the practice would be outdoors that day. He also tweeted that the weather was ‘terrifying and also wrote: ‘Gusts of wind up to 60 mph today will be fun at work … I guess I’ve lived long enough.’ University investigators, however, couldn’t determine whether Sullivan ‘felt unsafe and pressure to stay in the lift,’ specifically questioning his use of the word ‘terrifying.’”
Are you kidding me? Who wouldn’t be scared when they know they were going to be in a 40-foot high lift with wind gusts of 60 mph? Furthermore, if Sullivan tweeted that the wind gusts were going to be 60 mph, how did the staff members not realize it was that windy out? This whole ordeal just screams ignorance to me. And the report that came out today stated that no one individual was to blame for Sullivan’s death. Does that really even matter? It actually makes it worse because there were so many people that could’ve prevented this tragedy and nobody did anything. It’s unfortunate that something like this had to happen for people to start paying attention, but hopefully everyone will learn from this tragedy and nothing like this will ever happen again.
Submitted by Steve Giles