Tag: Declan Sullivan


One year later, Sullivan family honors Declan’s memory


One year ago, Notre Dame student videographer Declan Sullivan had his life end after a wind storm tipped over the lift he was filming football practice on. The tragedy was immense — his death a terrible mix of circumstance, poor decision making, and outdated protocol. After a thorough investigation, Notre Dame released its own internal report and Indiana’s OSHA board fined the school $42,000 for safety violations.

Family and friends grieved the loss of a life far too young, while those watching from afar whispered about the legal ramifications. It took less than a week for Forbes.com to hypothesize that the accident could cost Notre Dame $30 million dollars. They were far from alone, as message-boards and websites took aim at people they could blame — the head coach, the athletic director, the video coordinator, the university president — any and all thought culpable by those hoping to tidy this tragedy up.

That thought process never consumed the Sullivan family as they grieved the loss of Declan. One year after the tragedy, the Chicago Tribune sat down exclusively with Barry Sullivan, Declan’s father, to discuss how the family has moved forward.

In his first extensive interview since his son’s death a year ago, Barry Sullivan told the Tribune that his family was never interested in suing the university and has not received a financial settlement from the school. He does not blame the storied college football program for the accident, either.

Rather than allow their grief to manifest itself as anger or legal vengeance, he and his wife, Alison, have devoted the last 12 months to making sure something beneficial comes from their very public tragedy.

“It was not our first impulse to go out and hire a lawyer. That’s not the way we’re wired,” Barry Sullivan said. “We never really felt a reason to pursue any kind of legal action. Why would you do that? … We didn’t want to take resources and energy away from other positive things that might happen by tying up people with lawsuits and other actions.”

The family has plunged their work into the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial fund, splitting the more than $100,000 of donations between Chicagoland educational pursuits like Horizons for Youth, St. Mary’s School and Carmel Catholic High School. In addition to a national safety campaign for aerial lifts run in conduction with the Indiana Department of Labor, Notre Dame has also announced an endowed scholarship in Sullivan’s name, which “will assist students who are not only in financial need, but who also have demonstrated the traits that made Declan original, whether through a particular interest in filmmaking, service to under-privileged youth, creative writing, or other passions.”

The loss of Sullivan is still fresh in the hearts and minds of those that knew and loved Sullivan. Private masses will be held for Declan’s dorm-mates at Fisher Hall and a mass will be held at Lewis Hall as well, where Declan’s sister Wyn lives. The university dedicated a memorial to Declan’s memory last weekend, just outside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex and the LaBar Practice Fields.

“Dec would want us to go on and remember him in a positive way,” Barry Sullivan told the Chicago Tribune. “I’d like to think we’re doing that.”

Holiday weekend notes: Frosh numbers, redshirts, and more

Matt Cashore

Compare today to running an offseason marathon. No doubt, we are slogging along here, but the good news is we’ve just passed the 13-mile marker. We’re more than half-way there, and while that terrible realization that you’ve still got 13 miles left to run might cross your mind, the very good news is that we’re more than half-way there.

Before we take a nice long weekend to enjoy Fourth of July fireworks and all things Americana, here are a few assorted thoughts and notes stockpiled from a pretty slow week in Irish country. Don’t worry, on the flipside of the long holiday weekend, we’ll have just a month to go until the Irish break into fall camp.


Freshman numbers were officially released and for those of you wondering who is wearing what, query no more.

1 – Ishaq Williams
4 – George Atkinson
5 – Everett Golson
7 – Stephon Tuitt
16 – Davaris Daniels
18 – Ben Koyack
19 – Aaron Lynch
21 – Jalen Brown
27 – Kyle Brindza
30 – Ben Councell
33 – Cam McDaniel
34 – Eilar Hardy
41 – Matthias Farley
43 – Josh Atkinson
50 – Chase Hounshell
56 – Brad Carrico
56 – Anthony Rabasa
58 – Troy Niklas
59 – Jarrett Grace
65 – Conor Hanratty
69 – Tony Springmann
72 – Nick Martin
77 – Matt Hegarty

A few thoughts on uniform numbers (can you tell it’s July?):

If you’re looking for some fearsome defenders wearing some low-digits, I’d argue that throwing Ishaq Williams, Stephon Tuitt, and Aaron Lynch into jerseys usually worn by quarterbacks and kickers takes the cake for roster juxtaposition.

Any question about where George Atkinson will end up is officially over for the season. Paired with Gary Gray wearing No. 4, there’s no way that Atkinson can play defense this year. (Ditto for Brad Carrico and Anthony Rabasa — both assigned No. 56, with Carrico on the offensive line and Rabasa playing defense.)

Two numbers you won’t be getting confused with: No. 7 — Stephon Tuitt, at roughly 6-foot-6, 280 and TJ Jones, generously listed at 5-foot-11 and 187. No. 5 — Everett Golson, listed at 6-foot, 180 (in heels) and Manti Te’o, listed at 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds.


While most of the focus is on the actual freshman entering Notre Dame this summer, it’s an incredibly important summer for the other freshman, those that preserved a year of eligibility and stayed off the field in 2010. Here’s a quick rundown of those second-year students that will be playing with freshman eligibility.

QB: Andrew Hendrix — Critical season for arguably the Irish’s most talented signal caller. Best case: He’s the 2012 starting QB. Worst case: He’s sitting out 2012 as a transfer at another BCS program.

RB: Cameron Roberson — Roberson’s ACL injury during spring was one of the biggest setbacks for the Irish in the offseason. The scout team player of the year was ready to step in and contribute on offense.

WR: Luke Massa — After finishing fifth-wheel in a four-man quarterback derby, Massa showed his athleticism as a quick study during spring drills at WR. He could turn himself into a Robby Parris type of player.

TE: Alex Welch — Welch was almost too good to redshirt last year in fall camp, but Kelly wisely kept him out even after Kyle Rudolph’s injury. He’s not physically ready for the trenches, but he’ll be an asset in the passing game.

OL: Christian Lombard — If there’s a candidate for a Zack Martin-type ascension it’s Lombard, who had already beaten out Matt Romine at tackle and have the coaches feeling very confident in their depth along the line.

OL: Tate Nichols — After spending a season learning how to use his massive frame, the 6-foot-8 Nichols will likely continue to develop behind right tackle Taylor Dever. Either way, he’ll look good getting off the bus.

OL/DL: Bruce Heggie — The ultimate Kelly developmental project, Heggie looks every bit the part of a guy that’ll help a football team win. Where and when is still to be determined.

NT: Louis Nix — If there’s a player that’s got a bigger reputation from spending a season on the sidelines, I can’t seem to remember one. “Irish Chocolate” should make an immediate impact in the middle of the defense.

LB: Justin Utupo — A high school defensive lineman, Utupo spent his freshman season learning the inside linebacker position. He could be the heir apparent to fellow Haka dancer Manti Te’o.

LB: Kendall Moore — A hugely athletic inside linebacker that would’ve been used on special teams by any other Irish head coach since Lou, Moore instead won scout team defensive player awards for his work during practice. He’s got a chance to start next to Te’o this season.


Changing beats, Notre Dame and the Indiana Department of Labor reached a settlement agreement stemming from the fatal accident that took student videographer Declan Sullivan’s life. Under the terms of the agreement, Notre Dame will make an unannounced contribution to the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund and had its fine reduced from $77,500 to $42,000, which will be paid to the Indiana Department of Labor.

More importantly, Notre Dame will launch a nationwide educational program that’s directed at other universities and educational organizations about the dangers of outdoor scissor lifts. The program must be launched within 180 days.

“Notre Dame has said multiple times publicly that it wants to ensure nothing like Declan’s death occurs again on its watch, and that it wants to honor Declan’s memory,” IDOL Commissioner Lori Torres said in a written statement. “We believe this unique agreement allows Notre Dame to live up to those statements, and it allows our agency to carry out its primary mission, which is to advance the safety of employees throughout the state.”

Speaking on behalf of the Sullivan family, Mike Miley, Declan’s uncle, had this to say to the South Bend Tribune:

“The university contines to be forthright in communicating with the family,” Miley said. “Every step they are taking is in conjunction with the family needs.”


Notre Dame releases report on Sullivan accident

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After over six months of investigating, Notre Dame released their internal report stemming from the aerial lift accident that took the life of student videographer Declan Sullivan.

The 145-page document can be read in its entirety here, but found the causes of the accident to be an irregular and extraordinary 53 mile-per-hour wind gust, staff members’ lack of knowledge regarding the current and projected weather conditions, specific characteristics of the scissor lift, and the height of the lift during the wind gust.

In his letter opening the report, school president Rev. John Jenkins had this to say:

After a thorough and painstaking study in which numerous university personnel were interviewed and external experts consulted, we have reached the conclusion that no one acted in disregard for safety. Each individual involved based his decisions and actions that day on the best information available at the time and in accord with the procedures that were in place. The procedures regarding wind safety obviously did not prevent this accident and must be brought up to the more rigorous standards that we have for other weather conditions — such as cold, heat, humidity, and lightning. Many individuals and departments share the collective responsibility for the inadequacy of the procedures that led to this tragedy. The university, then, is collectively responsible. Insofar as the President is responsible for the unversity as a whole, I am the individual who bears the most responsibility, and I accept that responsibility.

Let me conclude by expressing to the Sullivan family our deepest sorrow for the loss of Declan. You entrusted him to our car, and we failed to keep him safe. Again, I thank you for the graciousness, honesty and courage you have shown in struggling with the aftermath of this tragedy.

Nothing we do can restore Declan to his family and to this community. But one important way to memorialize Declan is to do all we can do understand the factors that led to his death and take the steps to prevent such an accident from happening again at Notre Dame — or anywhere else.

The investigation was independently observed by Dr. Peter Likins, a former member of the Knight Commission and the former Provost of Columbia and President at the University of Arizona. It was led by Dr. John Affleck-Graves, the university’s Executive Vice President.

UPDATE — The Sullivan family, through its family spokesman, Mike Miley, Declan’s uncle, says the family is grateful for the detail Notre Dame has included in the report.

“What we’re satisfied is this process is as detailed as it is,” Miley said. “At the end of the day, what we want seems to be the same thing Notre Dame wants– to avoid this sort of tragedy again with anybody, anywhere. I look forward to seeing the details about how Notre Dame moves their plan nationally.”

According to a report by the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen, after months of near-silence, expect to hear from Declan’s parents, Barry and Alison soon.

“I advised Barry, specifically, that he needs to be thinking about this in terms of sometime in the next week,” Miley said. “Just becayse of the freshness of the story and the report. At the same time, I suggested and he very much agreed, that today is not that day, because today is about the Notre Dame report. We want to make sure that everyone has a chance to look at this and thoroughly go through it. We feel like it will be a more impactful conversation with the family after that.”

Notre Dame releases statements on IOSHA findings

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The University of Notre Dame released statements in response to the findings by the Indiana Safety and Health Administration, stemming from the October 27 accident that took the life of student Declan Sullivan.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame president:

“Notre Dame has great respect for the thorough and professional manner in which IOSHA officials have conducted their investigation. We have worked collaboratively with them over the past four months and have had a chance today to take a preliminary look at their findings. We will study the details very carefully and take the actions necessary to protect the ongoing safety of our students and staff. We also are very interested in the IOSHA educational effort and have every intention of being a part of that to share what we learn.

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

John Affleck-Graves, executive vice president:

“The IOSHA findings are very helpful as we begin to conclude our own comprehensive investigation. As part of the agency’s review process, we will meet with officials in the next 15 days. We expect that our report will include information gathered through the IOSHA investigation as we focus on all factors that contributed to the accident, including the series of decisions made on that day. We have committed to making a report of our investigation public and will do so once it is complete and we have finalized our review with IOSHA, which we expect to be in four to six weeks.”

Jack Swarbrick, athletic director:

“I know John Affleck-Graves is leading a wide-ranging university investigation that will incorporate the findings from IOSHA. But nothing can change the tragic reality of what occurred last October, and all of us in Irish athletics continue to grieve with the Sullivans and keep them in our prayers.”

Brian Kelly, head football coach:

“Declan was a wonderful member of our football family and is missed to this day. We all continue to both grieve and keep his family and friends in our thoughts and prayers. I’m sure the university will use the findings from the state to enhance the investigation into this tragedy.”

Notre Dame fined $77,500 for Sullivan accident

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After a nearly five month investigation, the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration levied fines against Notre Dame for violations that occurred during the accident that killed student videographer Declan Sullivan.

“The employer did not establish and maintain conditions of work which were reasonably safe and healthful for employees, and free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees in that employees were exposed to potentially broken bones and/or death when untrained employees were instructed to use scissor lifts, at various elevations in windy conditions, to film football practice sessions,” the twelve-page report stated.

The investigation turned up six violations, with the most severe a $55,000 fine for a supervisor admitting to send untrained employees up onto the scissor lifts on October 27th, when the National Weather Service had a high wind warning in effect.

The Sullivan family released a statement in response to the report:

We appreciate the thorough investigation by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) concerning the circumstances surrounding the death of our son, Declan. This report is an important step in preventing future accidents, but its findings do not change the fact that Declan is not with us.

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.

It is our sincere desire that universities, high schools and other institutions that use these lifts take to heart that accidents such as these are preventable and can be avoided if the designated safety measures are taken.

We are grateful for the respect shown us over the past several months by everyone connected with Notre Dame. The University has maintained an open line of communication throughout this period and has provided timely answers to our questions.

Finally, our family remains thankful to the many individuals who have expressed their condolences in countless ways. We would like to express gratitude for the donations to the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund and we continue to work with Notre Dame and others to find a fitting way to memorialize Declan’s life.

We appreciate continued respect for our privacy as we focus on dealing with the loss of our son.

Alison and Barry Sullivan

Notre Dame announced last week that it has banned the use of hydraulic lifts and will implement a remote controlled camera system when spring practice begins.