Notre Dame's Brian Kelly Addresses Student's Death

Published: Oct. 31, 2010 at 6:14 PM EDT
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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'

statement said.

"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

Thursday's Mass.

"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.)