SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said
Saturday it was his decision to hold practice outdoors on a windy
day when a student videographer died after the lift he was in fell
Kelly said that he decided the Irish could have a productive and
safe practice on their outdoor practice fields last Wednesday,
despite the wind. The National Weather Service said a stiff breeze
was gusting up to 51 mph at the time the tower that 20-year Declan
Sullivan was in toppled to the ground.
Notre Dame had systems in place for dealing with safety issues
at practice but those systems failed and are being evaluated, Kelly
said. Conditions including the heat index, lightning in the area
and - obviously - wind, play into the decision whether to hold
practice outside, he said.
"You have to be able to look at the weather conditions and find
out whether you believe it's going to be a productive day, first.
We believed it to be productive, it was productive, obviously up
until the tragedy," Kelly said, speaking to reporters after Notre
Dame's 28-27 upset loss to Tulsa.
"Practice must be safe," he added.
A moment of silence was observed and a prayer offered before
Saturday's game for Sullivan. Both teams wore shamrock decals with
the letters DS on them.
Later Saturday, Declan's parents, Alison and Barry Sullivan,
released a statement through Notre Dame saying they were grateful
"for the consideration shown to us by the Notre Dame
administration and everyone associated with the university" in the
wake of their son's death. The school held a memorial Mass for
Declan on Thursday night.
"Declan loved Notre Dame. He felt privileged to have a role
with the football program videotaping games and practices. The
grief we feel is tempered by the knowledge that Dec was doing what
he loved in the place he most wanted to be," his parents'
"Declan's life was cut short after just 20 years, but he leaves
this world a better place for having been here. We hope that all
that knew him join us in celebrating our son's life and remembering
the joy he brought to so many."
Kelly said when the tower went down, he told his assistants to
take care of the team and he went to the area where it landed.
"I gathered the coaches quickly, two of them, and said, 'Keep
practicing.' At that point we had players that were starting to
migrate towards the accident scene. I thought it was important for
me to keep our guys away from that accident scene," Kelly said.
"I got to the accident scene and saw that our training staff
were with Declan, and I wanted to make certain that that area was
in good hands. It looked like to me everything was moving in the
right direction. We had Notre Dame responders, we had ambulance
responders. And once I felt comfortable in that situation, where we
had professionals on site dealing with it, I went back inside to
the practice field and subsequently called our football team
together at midfield. We prayed for Declan. I told and informed our
football team of the injury, the seriousness of it, and I then
dismissed our football team."
Kelly said he didn't have answers as to why someone didn't tell
Sullivan to get off the tower, or who was responsible for
monitoring the changing conditions.
"Those are all the things that we're examining right now. We
could probably come up with a number of different things that we're
all wondering. Those are the questions that are being asked exactly
as you've asked them," he said.
He also was asked if there is a maximum wind speed prescribed
for using the scissor lifts.
"Again, if I had the knowledge specifically of wind speed and
heights of lifts, all of those, I certainly would provide those to
you. I just don't have that information," he said.
Kelly said dealing with Sullivan's death was especially
difficult because he had gotten to know the student personally as a
result of spending so much time in the film and video offices. He
said he met with the prospective filmmaker's family before
"As a father of three I can only imagine the sorrow that
accompanies the loss of your son," Kelly said.
The coach said that "in terms of the tragedy that occurred,
there's never been a more difficult time in my life."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)