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Junior Declan Sullivan mourned after Tower accident

Oct 27, 2010, 10:17 PM EDT

A special Mass of Remembrance has been planned for Notre Dame junior Declan Sullivan, a 20-year-old from Long Grove, Ill., who died while filming practice for the athletic department.

University president Rev. John Jenkins will preside over Mass, which will begin at 10 p.m. in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. He also sent an email to the entire student body Wednesday night.

“No words can convey the shock and grief we all are experiencing. Declan was a well-liked, bright and enthusiastic film and marketing student and a valued member of the Notre Dame family. His death is a tremendous loss that will be felt very deeply and we share in your grief during this incredibly difficult time,” Jenkins said.

Head football coach Brian Kelly also released a statement on the passing of Declan:

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Declan’s family and friends. Declan was a diligent student worker in our video department and had a tremendous personality and great sense of humor. He brightened the days for all that had the privilege to work with him, and the Notre Dame football family will dearly miss him.”

While the cause of the accident is being investigated, Sullivan was atop a hydraulic scissorlift when the incident occurred, and winds were gusting well over 50 mph. He was transported to Memorial Hospital in South Bend where he later died.


  1. 1notredamefan - Oct 27, 2010 at 10:45 PM

    I work on scissor lifts regularly and they are DANGEROUS, never did like them and this makes matters worse! Can’t imagine going up with no building next to you in those winds:( My thoughts and prayers!!

    • tedlinko - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:32 PM

      First things first. This is a terrible tragedy. My heart goes out to this student’s family, to his friends, and to all at practice who witnessed this.

      But…that said, it is hard to simply call this simply an accident.I realize we don’t have all the facts, but the facts we do have (hydraulic scissorlift, 50 feet in the air, wind gusts of 50mph) lead me to one conclusion. Gross negligence on the part of the university is more like it. You don’t have to be an engineer of physicist to understand that those kinds of lifts are dangerous – especially in high winds. you just have to look at one. It is hard to believe that thing wasn’t swaying in the wind before it fell. Indeed it’s being reported that the kid posted multiple messages on Twitter suggesting he had concern for his safety.

      Whether or not he truly understood the extent of the danger he was in is, frankly, irrelevant. His supervisors should have. That thing should never have been raised in those kinds of winds, with or without someone on it. The fact that it was, and that a student died as a result, is a decision that someone is going to have to live with. I pray for that someone as well.

      It is hard to see how this wasn’t preventable had the people in charge used common sense.

  2. bostonjan - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    I recently read a quote attributed to Fr. Ted Hesburgh, words to the effect of “I’m too old to cry, but not too old to hurt”. I pray that the Holy Spirit will fill the hearts of this family and give them the strength to go on. I can not grasp the pain that they must feel. I’m ashamed of my petty complaints and utterly grateful for gifts/blessings that I take for granted – like sharing my birthday with my 17 and 20 year old sons this past weekend. May God comfort the Sullivan family.

  3. kanaiaupune1 - Oct 28, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    God does work in mysterious ways, and in many instances we will never know why things happen when they do. In September I was blessed to visit the ND campus to see my cousin play in the Michigan game. I remember just standing at looking at the practice field in amazement. This unfortunate accident just brings me back to that trip. We celebrated my sons’ 2nd birthday yesterday, the same day this happened. Our prayers and thoughts go out to all of the Notre Dame community, especially the ohana of Declan Sullivan.

    Peace & God Bless

  4. jerseyshorendfan1 - Oct 28, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    Keith, where do you think Kelly’s liability is in all this? It made me sick to learn that the practice continued after this tragedy. The kid was tweeting how afraid he was up there with the wind. I hope his family can find peace in the wake of this. It is 100 times more senseless than the death of Matt James.

  5. jerseyshorendfan1 - Oct 28, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    Just lost all respect for Swarbrick. He invokes the first names of the student’s parents at the outset of his press conference and then proceeds to “lawyer up” by saying everything was normal when he entered the practice field and then several minutes later, an unusual burst of wind blew things around that had been stationary before. How would he know if he only entered the field moments before? The student was reported to be tweeting how scared he was about the conditions some 45 minutes before the accident. It was grossly negligent to let him go up there in any wind in excess of 25 mph. Who was responsible for that? They should man up and take the responsibility. Then they cancel the pep-rally and football luncheon but don’t cancel your money-maker. No, use the game to honor his memory and put a sticker on your helmet. What a crock.

    • 1notredamefan - Oct 28, 2010 at 2:56 PM

      Not to degrade the kid but if he really was that scared he had every right to get off the machine!! In no way or matter would he be forced into the situation, It’s a damn shame and I feel very deeply for his loss but this mistake is not only admin. error the kid had to have been trained on the machine and it’s functionality, therefor put his fate in his hands with negligence by both parties involved! He should’nt have stayed up in the air……PERIOD Believe me when I say I am on one regularly for a living and I was on one at 18 and so forth I had to know the dangers and I had to act accordingly MY LIFE is the most important thing when I am in the air his was too!!

      Blame will always fall in the laps of those in charge yet sometimes people just need to realize that things they don’t understand or have any experience with should stay relatively mum on the sitz , YOU know not what YOU are talking about!!!

      • tedlinko - Oct 28, 2010 at 5:32 PM

        Sorry, 1notredamefan but your comments fall into the category of blaming the victim. Look. I don’t know the details of what went on between the student and his supervisor(s) and ai rather suspect you don’t have any insider knowledge either. Certainly we can look back and say that the kid could have/should have made a different decision for his own safety. That’s beside the point. Getting on that lift he was doing a job that presumably his employer directed him to do.The point is that his supervisors should not have allowed, let alone asked him to get on a lift under those conditions. If weather conditions included gusts to 50mph -heck even 30mph — that lift shoudl never have even been raised in the air with or without anyone on it.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Oct 30, 2010 at 9:16 PM

        @1notredamefan……excuse me, but I actually do know what I’m talking about. I have handled countless construction site accidents involving cranes, lifts, buck hoists, etc. As far as being forced into this position, Sullivan was at work and when at work you do what your supervisor tells you to do or you lose your job. That is the primary reason that the comparative fault of the worker is not considered as a defense in cases like this. Oh, and one more thing, you’re a moron.

  6. 1notredamefan - Oct 28, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    Well if inside information is knowledge, and experience of operating/ certified to operate< in which you must have in order to operate ( certificate- a class to teach you the responsibilities of operating a piece of machinery of that magnitude) then yes many years of inside knowledge! Please don't misconstrue my remarks and try to make what I am saying into a diss toward the kid or any part of his tragic death!! Lets please try to accept that it was an ACCIDENT and they happen everyday somewhere in the world, just so happens this one hit very close to our hearts and it's especially hard for not us the fans but the members of his family and friends with whom my deepest sympathies are with during their time of need!! If anything I will give the kid my deepest heartfelt form of respect for doing his job!! Workforce injuries and deaths happen everyday and it's never OK, all you can do is move on.

  7. luckywi - Oct 28, 2010 at 11:13 PM

    This was senseless. And this was a kid. Who probably didn’t know he could say no. His poor family. What a sad, sad event. Shame, shame shame.

  8. dmacirish - Oct 29, 2010 at 8:00 AM

    God bless him and his family.
    As far as all the comments, we (Americans) are so quick to place blame on a managerial presence or institutions that employee others. They are people. We (Americans) are so quick to protect a victim. They are people to. Sometimes when things like this happen we must realize that they, the incidents, can be accidents and those injured or worse are not always “victims” of those controlling them putting them in a bad position. The suggestion that the person hurt here did not know he could say no is ridiculous. I am sure he knew that he could say no, most likely did not think that this would actually happen to him. I think that if we can all agree on one thing it would be that we are all responsible for our actions and the results of them, both in the good and in the bad.
    What would we all say if his immediate supervisor recommended he come down and the response was “I am fine, its not all that bad”.
    Hindsight is 20/20, there are many ways that this could have been prevented and I would say that BK and the football players are not involved in any of those ways.

    • tedlinko - Oct 30, 2010 at 5:37 AM

      Here’s the bottom line. There were 50mph wind gusts. Scissor lifts aren’t stable in those kinds of conditions. 1notredamefan can talk all he/she wants about experience. If he/she knows that much, he knows the safety issues.

      They never should have had the lift up in that weather. All this talk about whether or not the kid knew he could say no is irrelevant. It wasn’t a safe situation, and those in charge should have recognized it.

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