Declan Sullivan, a Notre Dame student, died on Wednesday while filming the University’s football practice, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Sullivan was filming the football practice from a hydraulic scissor lift tower that collapsed under pressure from wind gusts that day that reached about 50 mph.
The most ironic part of this terrible tragedy is the Twitter messages that Sullivan sent an hour before his death. One of them read, “Gust of wind up to 60mph well today will be fun at work… I guess I’ve lived long enough :-/.,” according to The Huffington Post. The University expressed its condolences and authorities were investigating the 20-year-old’s death. This is not the only student death in recent years that was due to a lack of safety standards set by a school.
Another sports tragedy at a school is the death of 15-year-old Max Gilpin. Max was an offensive lineman for his high school football team when he was practicing in 2008 in 94-degree weather. During practice, Max collapsed due to heat stroke and his core body temperature was 107 degrees at the time; he then died three days later from complications, according to Fox News.
This and many other heat-related deaths all over the country could have easily of been prevented if the school or the coaches just set standards for play. Students shouldn’t have to put their lives on the line in order to participate in sports. If Max Gilpin or any of the other students who have died from practicing sports in extremely hot temperatures had refused to practice, they would have probably been kicked off the team. The only good thing that has come out of heat-related incidents such as Max’s death is that heat stroke is taken more seriously by schools, and temperature standards have been set to prevent things like this from happening again.
Now with the Declan Sullivan case, everyone who was given access and permission to use the hydraulic lift that Sullivan was on when he fell to his death should have been given a safety briefing on the equipment. The coaching staff and anyone else who used it should have known the safety standards for it. There is no reason why Sullivan should have been up on that lift, and if a 20-year-old student is smart enough to know that he was potentially in trouble, then so should have the older coaches.
However, there is no need to put the blame solely on the coaching staff. Just like in the Max Gilpin case, trying to take legal action against the coaches got the family of Max nowhere. In order to gain something from this tragedy, Notre Dame should have safety seminars on any piece of potentially dangerous equipment before it is used, and other universities should follow their lead.
Both Max Gilpin and Declan Sullivan’s deaths were tragedies, but the proper way for the communities that lost them to grieve is to put that grief to use and stop sports safety issues like these from ever taking place again.
Associated Press, “NotreDame student dies after tower falls” San Francisco Chronicle
Ellie Hall, “Declan Sullivan, Notre Dame Student Killed In Video Tower Collapse, Tweeted Before His Fall” The Huffington Post
Associated Press, “Kentucky High School Football Coach Charged with Reckless Homicide in Player’s Death” Fox News