Swarbrick: "Extraordinary Burst of Wind"

Notre Dame to honor Declan Sullivan with a special mass tonight at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus.

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins offered the only relevant truth regarding the death of Notre Dame junior Declan Sullivan.

"There certainly is no greater sadness for a university community than the death of one of the students; there's certainly no greater sadness for a family than the loss of a son or a brother," Jenkins said.

"On behalf of the whole University, I want to express our deepest condolences to the Sullivan family and to all of Declan's friends and classmates. Declan Sullivan was an energetic, dedicated young man, and we will miss him greatly."

Sullivan died as he was rushed to Memorial Hospital Wednesday after the scissor-lift video tower he occupied crashed from an estimated 50 feet amid high winds at the LaBar Practice Complex on University campus.

Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick stated that Sullivan's parents, Barry and Allison, as well as the student's two siblings, one of which is Notre Dame freshman, were on campus with the University's Father Tom Doyle, who was providing pastoral care to the grieving family.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly was not available for comment. Swarbrick noted that while Saturday's game vs. Tulsa will be played, that superfluous events surrounding the contest have been canceled, including both the traditional Friday Pep Rally and Coach Kelly's Friday Luncheon.

The football team did practice today inside the Loftus Sports Complex. All scheduled media activity surrounding the team has been canceled as neither Kelly, nor his coaches or players, will be available for comment until the completion of Saturday's contest.

"We want Coach Kelly to (provide guidance) to the young men in the program," Swarbrick said. "Beginning with the student managers, the video team, the student-athletes. As a university, that is our first priority. He is the head of that group of student-athletes and students, and we want him focused on them. That's why I'm here today so he can do that."

From Unremarkable to Extraordinary

According to published reports, the tower crashed at approximately 4:50 PM. Swarbrick estimated he entered the practice complex at approximately "4:47 or 4:48."

"I walked across the north end of the west field, the first field, toward the middle of the area between the two fields," he offered. "It was an unremarkable journey in the sense that practice was normal, and plays were being conducted with no difficulty. As a matter of fact, I witnessed two completed passes as I was walking out and greeted someone.

"I turned to face north and experienced a pretty extraordinary burst of wind," Swarbrick continued. "Things started flying by me that otherwise had been stationary for all of practice – Gatorade containers, towels, etc.

"I noticed the netting on the goal posts start to bend dramatically, and I heard a crash."

Swarbrick noted that both first responders and to the scene, including medical personnel, coaches and players, acted immediately.

"Coach Kelly and I focused on getting the athletes back into the practice area, away from the scene of the accident so the medical personnel could do their job," Swarbrick stated. "Coach Kelly remained with me as the security personnel arrived.

"The next responders were the fire department at Notre Dame, followed by an ambulance from South Bend. All responded very quickly; all reacted with great professionalism and care.

"Coach Kelly remained with me by Declan until the ambulance had Declan on the lift, and then he went back to the practice area. Shortly thereafter, before the ambulance departed, the team left the practice area and went into The (Guglielmino Athletics Complex)."

Both Jenkins and Swarbrick offered praise for the response of the Notre Dame community.

"I believe it's at times like these that the depth and the care and the faith of this community shine most brightly," Jenkins stated. "I believe they will do so in the current situation."

Father Jenkins will preside over a special mass in tribute to Declan Sullivan at 10 PM at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus.

"I would just echo Fr. Jenkins comment that in the face of unspeakable grief and as a father of four, I can only imagine how difficult and how traumatic this is for both Allison and Barry and their other children and the extended members of the Sullivan family." Swarbrick offered.

"But at times like this there is no more special place than Notre Dame and I have been so honored to be part of the extraordinary response of the University in its effort to assist the family, the students of Notre Dame and to assist the football program."

Investigation immediate and ongoing

Swarbrick said the investigation of the accident began immediately, with the Notre Dame police department, an accident reconstruction firm, and the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA).

According to WSBT.com, IOSHA spokesman Marc Lotter said Thursday the agency had an investigator on the scene in South Bend, noting it's too early to say when the agency, which has the authority to levee fines, could release a report.

Asked if Kelly authorized the use of the scissor lift Wednesday, Swarbrick noted, "We're going to investigate and understand how the decision was made.

"It's not one decision. There were multiple decisions made," Swarbick added. "It's not a decision to go outside; it's a host of decisions that are made relative to ‘Do you go outside and what you do when you go outside?' We're going to look at every one of those decisions to see who was involved and how it was made."

Swarbrick offered that cancelation of Saturday's contest was considered, but the program felt it was the best way to honor Sullivan's memory.

"We had a discussion whether we thought it appropriate to play the game as scheduled. We concluded that it was because it's an opportunity to honor Declan.

"We will wear decals on our helmet that reflect Declan as a member of our family. We will have a moment of silence and prayer pre-game, and more broadly, we will dedicate this game in honor of his memory."

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