South Bend, Ind. As the Notre Dame football team drilled on its practice field, Declan Sullivan stood high above the turf in a hydraulic lift, videotaping the session so players could get an aerial view of their performance.
Suddenly, the wind, already whipping so much that Sullivan tweeted that it was “terrifying,” surged to 51 mph.
The lift toppled over, crashing through a fence before coming to rest in a street just behind a goal post.
“Things started flying by me that had been stationary for all of practice — Gatorade containers, towels,” athletic director Jack Swarbrick recalled Thursday. “I noticed the netting by the goal post start to bend dramatically, and I heard a crash.”
Sullivan, a junior film student from the Chicago suburb of Long Grove, Ill., was taken to a hospital, but Swarbrick said he received a call from the ambulance before it arrived saying that the 20-year-old was not breathing. The young man was soon pronounced dead.
Swarbrick said he did not know how high the lift was when it fell over, and it was unclear who authorized Sullivan to go up in it.
As a student worker, Sullivan reported to a video coordinator associated with the football team, and Swarbrick said the decision to practice outdoors is left up to individual athletic programs.
A workplace-safety expert said the lift should never have been used in such blustery conditions.
The university pledged to review its policy for using the lifts.
Just before the practice began, Sullivan posted Twitter messsages in which he said “Gusts of wind up to 60 mph today will be fun at work ... I guess I’ve lived long enough.”