October 28, 2010 10:59 PM | No Comments
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — No one can comprehend Declan Sullivan’s death — including the university charged with finding out why the 20-year-old student was asked to videotape football practice from an elevated perch during a strong wind advisory.
University officials offered few answers Thursday when pressed about the accident and the decision to record the workout from an extended scissor lift. They sidestepped questions about Sullivan’s Twitter feed, which indicated the junior from suburban Long Grove was terrified as gusts swirled about him during practice Wednesday.
His Tweet seemed at odds with the administration’s account that weather conditions were “unremarkable” before the lift toppled over. National Weather Service data also appeared to contradict the conditions described by Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.
“There is a lot to learn here; we will learn it all,” Swarbrick said. “We will learn it in an expeditious manner.”
Swarbrick, who stopped by the practice field shortly before the accident, said he did not notice strong winds upon arriving. Though the team had worked indoors because of the weather Tuesday, Swarbrick said the squad seemed to have no problems with conditions Wednesday.
Moments later, a strong wind kicked up and sent equipment flying across the field, Swarbrick said. He saw the goal post netting start to “bend dramatically,” heard a loud bang and saw the lift had blown back or collapsed, gashing a fence and line of bushes.
Sullivan initially appeared responsive to commands but stopped breathing in the ambulance, officials said. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a nearby hospital.
Sullivan, a marketing and film double major, described conditions in haunting Tweets that appeared on his Facebook page just before his death.
“Gusts of wind up to 60 mph,” he wrote shortly before practice. “Well today will be fun at work. I guess I’ve lived long enough.”
He tweeted during the workout: “Holy (expletive). Holy (expletive). This is terrifying.”