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updated: 11/5/2010 7:03 PM

ND president on Declan Sullivan: 'We failed to keep him safe'

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  • Declan Sullivan

    Declan Sullivan


University of Notre Dame's president has taken responsibility for the death of a Long Grove student that occurred when a hydraulic lift he was on toppled in heavy wind.

Declan Sullivan, 20, was working for Notre Dame as videographer and filming a football practice when he died Oct. 27. His death remains under investigation by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In an e-mail sent to students, faculty, alumni and others Friday afternoon, the Rev. John Jenkins said the junior died in a tragic accident while in Notre Dame's care and that he's profoundly sorry for what happened.

"We are conducting an investigation and we must be careful not to prejudge its results, but I will say this: Declan Sullivan was entrusted to our care, and we failed to keep him safe," Jenkins wrote. "We at Notre Dame and ultimately I, as president are responsible. Words cannot express our sorrow to the Sullivan family and to all involved."

Michael Miley, an uncle and Sullivan family spokesman, declined to comment on Jenkins' e-mail. He added the family is awaiting the preliminary results of OSHA's investigation.

Indiana OSHA spokesman Marc Lotter could not be reached for comment.

Jenkins said in the e-mail that he's been with the Sullivan family during the past week and tried to provide support to Declan's parents, sister, brothers and others. Declan's sister, Wyn, is a Notre Dame freshman.

"Many Notre Dame faculty, staff and students also have reached out to offer their assistance," Jenkins said. "Yet the Sullivan family, through their incredible grace and courage, has given us support and an example of how to respond. They ministered to us as we tried to minister to them."

Sullivan was a graduate of Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein. Hundreds of mourners attended his funeral Mass on Monday at St. Mary Catholic Church in Buffalo Grove.

Jenkins said Notre Dame has been conducting an internal investigation of the incident and trying to examine it from every perspective in an effort to form recommendations on safety policies.

Former University of Arizona president Peter Likins, an engineer, has been tapped by Notre Dame to provide an external review to make sure the internal probe "has been thorough, unbiased and accurate," Jenkins said.

Jenkins also issued a defense of Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly in the wake of what he called unfounded and unfair media commentary since Sullivan's death. Kelly and several players were among the mourners at St. Mary.

"Coach Kelly was hired not only because of his football expertise, but because we believed his character and values accord with the highest standards of Notre Dame," Jenkins said. "All we have seen since he came to Notre Dame, and everything we have learned in our investigation to date, have confirmed that belief."