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Notre Dame Ends Use of Mobile Lifts

Thursday, March 10, 2011

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While continuing to investigate the death of a student videographer on a falling scissor lift, the University of Notre Dame has announced that it will no longer use mobile lifts to film games.

Declan Sullivan

Declan Sullivan twice
expressed concern about
working in the wind on
the day he was killed.

For years, the university has used mobile, elevated scissor lifts as platforms for students to film football practices and games. On Oct. 27, junior Declan Sullivan perished when the lift from which he was filming a practice fell over in a wind storm.

“I said in the days after Declan’s death that we would do everything in our power to make changes to ensure that such an accident does not happen again—here or elsewhere,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “This system puts safety at the forefront in a completely new and innovative way.”

However, the university will continue to allow filming from lifts permanently installed on the fields’ sidelines.

Both the university and the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating Sullivan’s death.

‘This is Terrifying’

Sullivan, 20, of Long Grove, IL, was working from the 50-foot-high mobile hydraulic lift—one of two used as camera towers—during a day-long wind advisory by the National Weather Service. The wind was 51 mph at the time. The university has been widely criticized for allowing Sullivan to work under such conditions.

University of Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame

Fighting Irish practices and games will still be
filmed from lifts on the sidelines, Notre Dame said.

The university has declined to release the make, model, safety record or condition of the lift. It also has declined to comment on the training given to students who operate the lifts or to say whether it has a policy about lift operations.

Sullivan had expressed concern about the wind in two Tweets shortly before the accident. The first, sent just as practice had begun about an hour earlier, said: "Gusts of wind up to 60 miles an hour. Well today will be fun at work. I guess I've lived long enough."

And then, just before the lift toppled:  "Holy [expletive]. Holy [expletive].This is terrifying.”

New Video System

Fighting Irish Football will still be recorded for posterity, however.

The university is investing in what it calls a “first-of-its-kind outdoor remote video system,” comprised of four Panasonic cameras mounted on 50-foot poles—one on the south ends of each of the three LaBar Football Practice Fields, where Sullivan was killed, and one on the north end of field No. 1.

The poles were manufactured by StressCrete, the oldest manufacturer of spun concrete poles in North America. The video system will be designed by XOS Digital Inc., which will also make a donation to the Declan Drumm Sullivan Memorial Fund. The amount of the donation was not disclosed.

“The cameras will be housed in temperature-controlled units, and a fiber-optic network will transmit video to a control room in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, where members of the athletics video services department will be able to edit and produce various materials for coaches and players,” the university said in a statement.

Sideline Filming Continues

Video department personnel will continue to manually operate cameras from the two permanent lifts on the sidelines of the practice fields, the university said.

The university did not disclose the cost of the system, which should be up and running by the time spring practice begins March 23.

The university says it is “in discussion with the Sullivan family” to determine how the school “can best honor Declan’s legacy.”


Tagged categories: Access; Accidents; Fatalities; Health and safety; lift; OSHA; Worker training

Comment from shane hirvi, (3/11/2011, 12:23 PM)

50-60 mph winds and somebody sticks a 20-year-old kid on a scissor lift to film a college football practice? How nice that they spent all their time talking about how great the new system is going to be while not releasing information pertaining to Mr. Sullivan's training or why he was up there in 50-60 mph winds filming a practice. Pretty shameful.

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