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.”