The school, earlier fined by the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration, released details in a report on its investigation into the death of Declan Sullivan, a junior film student who was killed when the 40-foot scissor lift he was using toppled in a 53-mph wind gust Oct. 27 in South Bend, Ind.
Staff members, according to the report, relied on National Weather Service readings that showed 23-mph winds with 29-mph gusts at 1:54 p.m. The staff was unaware that at 2:54 p.m., the NWS reported winds of 29 mph with 38 mph gusts. Practice began at 3:45 and, at the time of the accident, the weather service was reporting 33 mph winds with 51 mph gusts.
“The report highlights that as the primary weakness in our procedures,” John Affleck-Graves, Notre Dame’s executive vice-president, said at a press conference. “The lack of wind-measuring equipment on the field during the practice and the absence of any single individual with responsibility for monitoring the wind.”
According to the report, “no one acted in disregard for safety,” but the Rev. John Jenkins, the university president, took ultimate responsibility. “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. ... 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 university as a whole, I am the individual who bears the most responsibility, and I accept that responsibility.”
Notre Dame’s report noted that none of the three people most involved in telling Coach Brian Kelly whether it was safe to practice outside spoke up.
he school noted that three people were most involved in advising Kelly on whether it was safe to practice outside: director of football operations Chad Klunder, then-head athletic trainer Jim Russ and Tim Collins, director of football video and film.
“Ultimately, no one — not [Director of Football Video and Film Tim] Collins, [Director of Football Operations Chad] Klunder, nor [former head athletic trainer Jim] Russ — told Kelly or any coach that practice should be held indoors or that the lifts should not be used,” the report says.
One person was aware of the forecast: Sullivan. The report indicates he learned of a high wind warning at weather.gov. According to the IOSHA report, Sullivan told Reuel Joaquin, an assistant video coordinator, “Aw, man, this sucks,” when he was told the practice would be outdoors. He tweeted that the weather was “terrifying” and “Gusts of wind up to 60 mph today will be fun at work ... I guess I’ve lived long enough.”
“Student videographers indicated their belief that the tweets likely reflected his joking nature, adding that his use of that word [terrifying] was common,” the report said.