I've been relatively hesitant to comment on the death of Notre Dame football videographer Declan Sullivan, who died last week when a hydraulic scissor lift collapsed near the school's practice field.
Personally, I find the story horrifying, and as a writer for a USC blog, I feel the need to be all the more sensitive in response to his death. I don't want to appear as if I am simply using this as an opportunity to criticize Brian Kelly and the Irish coaching staff, because I hope to make it clear that nothing could be further from the truth.
As many of you know, I'm presently a 20-year-old sophomore at USC, and despite growing up in a Trojan household in suburban Los Angeles, I actually had my sights set on attending Notre Dame as a high school student. Hey, I'm Catholic as well. Luckily, things worked out for the best, and I ended up in South Central.
But my points remains: that could've been me.
Sullivan is the same age I am, is by all accounts a sports fanatic and works for the football team as well. In short, what really separates him from me? Even still, it frustrates me to no end, knowing that it was a preventable death. As FOXSports.com's Jason Whitlock eloquently puts it:
Much was made of Kelly's acknowledgement that he was responsible for the Irish practicing outdoors on Wednesday in the windy conditions.
There was nothing risky or dangerous about practicing during strong wind gusts. The danger was in having a human being raised 50 feet in the air on a scissor lift to film the practice.
We're talking about negligence that led to the death of a child.
Something went wrong. It may be a tad bit extreme to start placing blame at the feet of Kelly, but unquestionably, somebody is to fault for this.
South Bend received tornado watches prior to the day's practice. Are you going to tell me that the wind gusts were a surprise? It's common sense. 50-feet in the air with 50 mile per hour gusts of wind is in all likelihood, not the best situation to place your employees in.
Luckily, today, it appears as if the university is taking the right steps by accepting responsibility for Sullivan's death. Per Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune:
Notre Dame's president wrote an open letter to students, faculty, staff and alumni Friday saying that the school is responsible for student videographer Declan Sullivan's death, while also affirming his support for Irish football coach Brian Kelly.
Rev. John Jenkins also announced that Notre Dame has enlisted former University of Arizona president Dr. Peter Likins to provide an external review of the investigation into Sullivan's death "to ensure that our inquiry has been thorough, unbiased and accurate."
Sullivan, 20, was killed Oct. 27 when a hydraulic lift he was on toppled over while he was filming football practice. Jenkins also promised a public report on Notre Dame's investigation.
"Declan Sullivan was entrusted to our care, and we failed to keep him safe," Jenkins wrote. "We at Notre Dame and ultimately I, as President are responsible. Words cannot express our sorrow to the Sullivan family and to all involved."
This is a good start. It's really as simple as Whitlock puts it, "We're talking about negligence that led to the death of a child."
It's not some small matter.The failure upon Kelly and his staff to have the necessary oversight to not send Sullivan up in a virtual storm led to his death. There needs to be some accountability on their part, and Jenkins' statement is more than an adequate start.
For the time being, though, our thoughts and prayers are with the Sullivan family, and the University of Notre Dame. We wish them all the best.