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Angel in the Backfield

When Brian Kelly leads his Notre Dame Fighting Irish onto the field tonight against Alabama, Barry Sullivan will be watching from the stands. A little over two years ago Sullivan’s oldest child, Declan, was on a scissors lift videotaping the Irish football practice when high winds caused the lift to topple and killed the 20-year-old student. He and his family have taken Declan’s death with more grace than most could ever hope to muster.

Instead of law suits, forced firings and acrimony, the Su…

  1. Rachel Lu
    C

    It really was touching that the Sullivans decided to be big enough people to enable something good to come out of such a tragedy. Their son will be remembered with affection and gratitude instead of bitterness and acrimony, and that’s a nice testament to them.

  2. JustinC

    Thank you for writing about this.  What a beautiful story.  

  3. 10 cents

    It’s so sad to read about this because this death could have been so easily avoided.  With further thought maybe it was not as easy to see the problem ahead of time.  Sometimes wind can be tricky and can gust unexpectedly.  If the gust hits the person at an unprepared moment bad things can result.  I have heard also that cameramen sometimes are so much in the viewfinder that they can do some stupid things. It’s too bad we all know what to do after the accident instead of before.

    It is nice to read that the family found an appropriate way to remember their son and his love of the game.  It is wonderful also that this family did not become the “Fighting Irish” but the “Loving/Forgiving Irish”.

  4. EJHill

    @Grendel – In today’s culture of grievance? Yeah, pretty much.

  5. DocJay

    Great story.  Go Bama, daddy needs a new shotgun.  -9.5 points.

  6. EJHill
    DocJay:…daddy needs a new shotgun. 

    In the shotgun already? Third and long and it’s four hours to game time!

  7. DocJay
    EJHill

    DocJay:…daddy needs a new shotgun. 

    In the shotgun already? Third and long and it’s four hours to game time! · 0 minutes ago

    That’s funny.  There’s a pistol offense these days too.  I was thinking however of a Benelli Super Black Eagle 2.

    sbe-2.jpg

  8. Jim  Ixtian

    Sorry EJ, usually I read your posts with high regard but not this one. Quite the opposite.

    The truth is that Notre Dame was negligent. Blaming it as a freak weather incident doesn’t really pan out as the weather was so bad and intense that week the NWS described it thus;

    The US National Weather Service reported on October 26, 2010 the Midwest super-storm was rated the strongest non-coastal Low pressure system in the Continental US.

    Even South Bend meteorologists warned about the effects of the low pressure system still around;

    They were just as bad yesterday. According to a South Bend meteorologist, Wednesday’s winds were at their strongest at right before 5:00 pm, with sustained winds around 40 mph and gusts of 53 mph. That peak gust coincides with the time Declan Sullivan’s tower fell.

    Even Ohio State’s ethically challenged coach(now gone) Jim Tressel  knew better;

    “I don’t know today if we’ll be inside or out,” Tressel said before practice. “It looks a little nasty. I worry about our cameramen, their well-being up there 50 feet in the air. So we’ll see how that goes.”

  9. Jim  Ixtian

    (cont.)

    Anyone with an ounce of common sense knew the danger presented by the gusty weather. Even Declan knew his life was in danger. His last tweets posted on Twitter confirm this;

    “Gusts of wind up to 60mph…Well today will be fun at work…I guess I’ve lived long enough :-/”

    and

    “Holy f*ck Holy F*ck this is terrifying”

    Within 30 minutes the lift Declan was on was blown over, Declan was taken to the hospital where he died. 

    And football practice continued for another 25 minutes after the lift was blown over.

    Other evidence is even more damning.

    Here’s my favorite piece of doublespeak from the Notre Dame’s Orwellian report;

    Notre Dame closely examined its Aerial Lift Platform Policy and training as part of the  Investigation. (Tim) Collins(Director of Vide0) never received any formal University training and was unaware that the University required training before operating aerial lifts. However, he received instruction on lift operation from a rental company and he also attended an aerial lift training session provided by the CSVA. Although he received some training, Collins primarily learned how to operate the lifts through using them over the last twenty years.

  10. Jim  Ixtian

    (cont.)

    Collins, in turn, then instructed the student-employees on how to use the lifts. Collins’s instruction was limited to how to raise and lower the lifts. The students did not review the operators’ manuals and did not receive any formal safety training on the lifts. The University’s policies clearly prohibited operating the lifts in such a manner, but it is unlikely that the football program’s failure to follow the policy contributed to the accident.

    So….the guy never had training beyond what he received from the company he rented the lifts from? And he’s letting students without any training up on these lifts? Hello Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.

    As for why the Sullivan family didn’t sue Notre Dame? It’s amazing when one considers the evidence of negligence by Notre Dame. It sure as hell doesn’t have anything to do with ‘Grace’. Perhaps the Sullivans think they’re being good little Catholics with a dose of Irish-American tribalism by letting the fake Irish off the hook. Catholic Guilt and tribalism and all that. Frankly, the Sullivan case has all the charm of the paedophile priest coverup.

    Oh yeah, Go Bama!!!

  11. Southern Pessimist

    Notre Dame may have been legaly negligent but I admire the Sullivan’s choice. I am sure that letting fake Irish off the hook along with all the pedophile priests associated with Catholiciscm weighed heavily in their desicsion.

  12. EJHill
    Jim Ixtian: Sorry EJ, usually I read your posts with high regard but not this one. Quite the opposite.

    Honestly, Jim, I went looking for this story this morning because so few sports sites were remembering Declan in their coverage of tonight’s BCS Championship.

    I know three things: 1) What my natural reaction would be as a parent if such a tragedy were to strike one of my children and 2) What my Christianity calls me do and 3) #1 and #2 are total opposites.

    Therefore when you find someone who can exhibit that level of grace it is to be admired, regardless of one’s belief in the school’s and Brian Kelly’s culpability.

    That’s what is amazing about human emotion. I related a story of forgiveness. You read a story of injustice. I wrote a story of forgiveness. You wrote an indictment. Same story, different take.

  13. Big John

    Jim I, the firm statements you make about fault and responsibility affirm the Sullivan’s response as grace-filled, inasmuch as grace is unmerited and undeserved. I’m glad they’ve chosen to do something positive with their son’s memory.

  14. DocJay

    It is impossible to prepare kids for everything so I teach mine critical thinking.   I would hope not getting on a flimsy ladder in huge winds would be a choice they made.  

    The story is horrible and the worst nightmare a family can face.  I am not making light of the tragedy but let’s not forget the kid made a choice here also.  

    Personally, I doubt I would sue.    Money can’t change the pain and in fact may worsen it.  

  15. Jim  Ixtian
    EJHill That’s what is amazing about human emotion. I related a story of forgiveness. You read a story of injustice. I wrote a story of forgiveness. You wrote an indictment. Same story, different take.

    You’re correct. We have two totally different takes on this. And I’m more than willing to concede that my opinion of why the Sullivan family isn’t suing could be incorrect. Perhaps the truth is in the middle.

    However, the problem I’m having with this case is that a young man with his whole life ahead of him is dead because the adults charged with his safety didn’t do their job and look out for his best interests. Director of Video Tim Collins still has a job and Declan Sullivan is dead. From indications it needn’t have been that way.

    But, hey, at least Notre Dame is winning. Right?

    As for Grace, time enough for that in the grave. Justice is for the here and now.

  16. EJHill
    Southern Pessimist:  I am sure that letting fake Irish off the hook along with all the pedophile priests associated with Catholiciscm (sic) weighed heavily in their desicsion. (sic)

    SP – As they used to say during WWII, “Was that trip necessary?”

    The pedophilia scandal is totally unrelated to this story and, quite frankly, your raising it in this context is disappointing to say the least. Must every story concerning the Catholic Church or one of it’s affiliated institutions mention it?

  17. 10 cents

    Jim Ixtian,

    Thanks for the comments. I was wishfully thinking this was a freak accident. There was no reason to put this young man in danger. This was gross negligence. No training video is needed so badly that a human life is put at risk. I know if it was I had the responsibility others might be able to forgive me but it would be hard to ever forgive myself.

  18. 10 cents

    EJHill,

    Agree totally that Jim’s connecting of the Church’s scandal to this incident was beneath him.

    Jim Ixtian,

    My view is grace is needed in this world too. If this family was able to resolve this death in this way I find it good. EJ was sharing not what Notre Dame did but the reaction of the family. My opinion is that more money and the trial process would have more than likely caused more pain to this grieving family. If it does not go against your principles too much, please edit your scandal comment.

  19. Southern Pessimist
    EJHill

    Southern Pessimist:  I am sure that letting fake Irish off the hook along with all the pedophile priests associated with Catholiciscm (sic) weighed heavily in their desicsion. (sic)

    SP – As they used to say during WWII, “Was that trip necessary?”

    The pedophilia scandal is totally unrelated to this story and, quite frankly, your raising it in this context is disappointing to say the least. Must every story concerning the Catholic Church or one of it’s affiliated institutions mention it? · 52 minutes ago

    I didn’t throw pedophilia into the story, Jim did. Sarcasm is easily misunderstood, I guess.

  20. Southern Pessimist

    It is hard to post on an IPad without a lot of (sic) comments.

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