An otherwise normal football drill practice on the campus of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, turned tragic when 20-year-old Declan Sullivan fell to his death. Sports Illustrated reports that Sullivan was standing high above the ground in a hydraulic lift with wind gusts reaching speeds as high as 51 mph. The lift crashed to the ground with Sullivan inside of it. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital and was soon pronounced dead.
Prior to the accident, Sullivan had sent tweets out about how “terrifying” it was to be on the tower with such high winds. In what can only be seen as prophetic, just prior to practice beginning, Sullivan posted messages on Twitter where he is quoted as saying “Gusts of wind up to 60 mph today will be fun at work….. I guess I’ve lived long enough.”
It appears that sports and injuries or fatalities can happen at school sporting events if proper steps are not taken to ensure the safety of all who are there. In 2008, a young cheerleader from Newton, Mass., Lauren Chang died . According to ABC News, Chang died when she was kicked accidentally in the chest. She collapsed at a cheerleading competition and later died as a result of her injuries. In another cheerleader death, 14-year-old Ashley Burns died when a cheerleading stunt went wrong.
Cheerleading is considered to be one of the most dangerous activities in sports due to the stunts involved, which sometimes require a person to be thrown 10 to 20 feet in the air. Dr. Robert C. Cantu, a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University School of medicine, released a report indicating that between 1982 and 2007, more than half of the serious injuries and deaths among athletes were from cheerleading.
While unrelated to the circumstances surrounding Sullivan’s death, it is important to note, that all schools and administrators could benefit from taking a look at their current safety rules and measures and strive to increase them and evaluate their effectiveness and whether more needs to be done.
Declan Sullivan’s death is a direct indication that safety measure must be strictly enforced and constantly re-evaluated. This tragic death could possibly have been prevented had there been measures in place that would have restricted the use of hydraulic lifts in those conditions. While I am not sure what measures and rules Notre Dame has in place for the use of the hydraulic lifts, many schools have sanctions in place that prohibit the use of these lifts if winds could possibly be an issue. Hopefully this tragic but preventable death can open the eyes of administrators to check their safety measures. No sporting event is important enough to be worth someone’s death.
Sports Illustrated – Declan Sullivan
Boston.com – Lauren Chang and Ashley Burns
ABC News – Lauren Chang