Tag:Notre Dame Tragedy
Posted on: October 28, 2010 6:07 pm

Video assistant speaks about ND tragedy, safety

Posted by Adam Jacobi

This is an interview with a current video assistant at a major college football program, whose role with the team is similar to that of Declan Sullivan, the Notre Dame student who died in the tragic tower collapse yesterday. To allow the assistant to speak candidly about the story and protect both his job and his program, we will not name the assistant or the team.


What's your official job title, and how long have you been doing film for this program?

Student Video Assistant, in my 3rd season.

And what, primarily, does that job entail?

We are responsible for taping all practices and games. For the normal practice, we have four cameras: two sideline, two end zone. Two cameras for the normal game. Typically, a student arrives an hour before practice, receives a schedule of what is to be taped, and has to be in place before practice begins. At that point, the video coordinator and students are responsible for taping whatever the coaches request be taped -- usually a given camera will be rolling for probably 70% of practice. After practice, the students and video coordinator are responsible for preparing the video so that it is immediately available for coaches. A good video staff will have most of practice available to view before practice is even finished, and all of it ready to view within 15 minutes of practice finishing.

How often do you use telescoping hydraulic tower lifts?

Most programs, when practicing outdoors, use hydraulic scissor lifts or a lift that is very similar to a cherry picker. We use hydraulic lifts every practice.

Do the lifts have any warnings about high wind?

Most lifts have a number of warnings, including one concerning wind. Generally, it is not advised to use them in winds over about 25 mph.

Have you ever gone up in one when it was windier than 25 mph?

Multiple times, although not a ton.

What's it like up in one of those when it's windy?

The normal lift will sway slightly in a light wind, probably 10-15 mph. If it gets really windy, it's a noticeable sway, although it has to get quite windy to have it sway more than an inch or so.

Have you ever felt unsafe in one of those?

After getting past the initial time up in the lift when just starting out, probably 3 or 4 times, either due to winds that were probably over 30 mph, or due to lightning in the area. Winds can be scary; lightning can be scarier.

The thing is, any student that has gone up in one of those lifts always has that moment where you wonder what you'd do if the lift tipped over -- kind of a doomsday scenario thing. It runs through your head, even when it's nice and sunny out.

Did your team practice inside or outside when the high winds came through?

This week? Inside.

Is there ever a time when the team is practicing outside and the video assistants don't go up in one of the lifts out of safety concerns?

Generally, if the team is practicing outside, there is an expectation that it will be filmed outside. There has been only one time that the student crew was summoned to the ground, and that came from the video director.

Why was that?

A thunderstorm was moving into the area, and being 50+ feet in the air in a metal lift, for lack of a better term, scares the crap out of you when lightning is striking around you.

How did the coaches react to you coming down? Did the practice stay outside or move in?

They were not pleased at all, and "requested" that we get back in the air as soon as we could. There's a bit of an intimidation factor there.

Is that consistent with how you're treated by coaches (high expectations, etc.)?

It's one of those jobs where they don't care til something goes wrong.

But you enjoy it, right?

Love it. Don't want to do anything else.

Before Declan Sullivan's tragedy happened, if the coaches had asked you to get into the lift with winds gusting at 50-60 mph, would you have?


Similarly, do you think the coaches ever would have asked you to do so?

I would hope not, but you never know. Coaches have tunnel vision. But ultimately, common sense out of administrators is critical.

Last question, I don't want to make you speak for coaches and programs you've never been a part of, so I won't ask about things changing nationwide as a result of the Sullivan tragedy, but at your program, do you see any shifts in policy concerning lift usage coming?

Possibly, although common sense should still take precedence. I don't doubt Declan felt he had to be there. The video coordinator, head coach, and athletic director all have some serious issues on their hands.

Posted on: October 28, 2010 2:58 am

ND tower victim: "Holy **** this is terrifying"

Posted by Adam Jacobi

By now, we've all heard about the tragic death of Declan Sullivan, the Notre Dame student assistant who was killed when his hydraulic film tower was blown over and toppled onto an adjoining street. As with any similar incident, an investigation is underway, if for no other reason than for a little more sense of closure for Sullivan's family and the team.

The thing of it is, though, Sullivan was actually acutely aware of the danger he faced when he went up into that raised platform on Wednesday. We know that because of two Facebook statuses he posted minutes before the fatal accident. Here's what Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune reports was on Sullivan's Facebook page:

Sullivan said: “Holy (expletive) holy (expletive) this is terrifying.”
And at 3:32 p.m., he posted: Gusts of wind up to 60mph well today will be fun at work... I guess I've lived long enough :-/

Knowing how this story ends and reading them after the fact is, for lack of a better term, sickening. It's the manifestation of every fear that keeps a parent awake at night, that their child's sense of trust will override his or her sense of danger, and that it ends badly. You read these posts and just think, "NO, NO, NO, STAY ON THE GROUND." But Sullivan didn't, and it's too late now.

Yet at the same time, Sullivan did choose to go up in the tower on Wednesday, and there are no reports as of yet that Kelly forced Sullivan to stay up there against any voiced objections. In other words, absent any as-yet-undisclosed details, there's really nobody to blame here, no bad guys who facilitated Sullivan's death. When he posted those now-haunting Facebook updates, he probably wasn't doing so as a cry for help so much as setting the stage for a story to tell later. That's not to put the blame on Sullivan's death on him, of course; even he underestimated the danger he faced going up there Wednesday, and that's why we're all where we are now.

Ugh. As if the story needed any worse details. Again, our thoughts are with the Notre Dame team, its community, and Sullivan's family.

Posted on: October 27, 2010 8:09 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2010 9:35 pm

Notre Dame assistant killed in high-wind accident

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Terrible news from South Bend today, as Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan was killed when his hydraulic film tower tipped over. Here's how Irish Sports Daily described the incident:

The accident happened at approximately 4:50 p.m. at the LaBar Practice Complex, located on the southeast side of campus. The student was filming Notre Dame football practice for the Department of Athletics from a hydraulic scissor lift when the incident occurred. The student was transported to Memorial Hospital in South Bend, where he later died.

As Chicago Breaking Sports noted at the time of the accident, the tower fell onto a street that's adjacent to the practice field where the student was filming.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss,” Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president, said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the student’s family and friends and our prayers and profound sympathies are with them during this incredibly difficult time. The loss of someone so young is a terrible shock and a great sadness. Our entire community shares in the family’s grief.

This is the second tragedy to befall Notre Dame since Brian Kelly took over at the end of last season; recall that just this past April, recruit Matt James died in a Spring Break accident.

Tragedies like these can't be overcome; that's not the way life works. They can be worked through, to an extent, and the Fighting Irish players and staffers are fortunate to be in an environment where cooperation, trust, and camaraderie are already part of their day-to-day culture. That's how they'll get through the roughest emotional stretches this, and it'll be a transformative event in their lives all the same, but if they had any compunctions about depending on their fellow teammates in times of need, those must surely be gone now.

Sullivan was only 20. How dreadfully awful for him to die so soon. Our thoughts are with his family and the Notre Dame community.

[UPDATE: Name added and age corrected.]

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com