State settles with Notre Dame in student's death

Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame will pay a $42,000 fine for six safety violations, make an undisclosed contribution to a memorial for a student videographer who died at football practice and start a campaign on the hazards of scissor lifts as part of a settlement with the state of Indiana.

The details were announced Friday. Notre Dame had originally been fined $77,500 and the most serious charge against it was that it knowingly put its employees in an unsafe situation and failed to heed National Weather Service warnings on a day when wind speeds reached 53 mph.

The settlement reduces the charge from a knowing violation to a serious violation.

Declan Sullivan, a 20-year-old junior film student from Long Grove, Ill., died Oct. 27 after the hydraulic scissor lift he was on toppled over in high winds while he was filming football practice.

"Notre Dame has said multiple times publicly that it wants to ensure nothing like Declan's death occurs again on its watch, and that it wants to honor Declan's memory," state Labor Commissioner Lori Torres said. "We believe this unique agreement allows Notre Dame to live up to those statements, and it allows our agency to carry out its primary mission, which is to advance the safety of employees throughout the state."

Notre Dame said in a statement that it "appreciates the professionalism that IOSHA officials have demonstrated throughout this process and is pleased to have reached agreement with them on the safety orders."

The report from the Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration did not identify who was responsible for making the decision to allow student videographers to go up in the lifts that day. The reports typically do not include that sort of information.

University officials have acknowledged that their procedures and safeguards weren't adequate but said they couldn't find any one person to blame for Sullivan's death. A university report found that several members of the football staff were monitoring wind speeds before practice, but they stopped after they went out for practice.

Sullivan checked later and saw a warning indicating the possibility of gusts up to 60 mph. He tweeted that the weather was "terrifying" and wrote: "Gusts of wind up to 60 mph today will be fun at work . . . I guess I've lived long enough."

A spokesman for Sullivan's parents said the family was satisfied with the settlement, particularly the nationwide safety campaign.

"There can be no better way to remember Declan than to help others avoid future tragedies," Sullivan's uncle, Mike Miley, wrote by e-mail.

Miley and Notre Dame both said the amount of money Notre Dame was contributing to the memorial was private matter.

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