Notre Dame, Indiana OSHA meet on Sullivan findings

  • Declan Sullivan

    Declan Sullivan

 
 
Updated 4/7/2011 6:06 PM

The University of Notre Dame now has until mid-June to pay the $77,500 in fines levied after the Indiana Department of Labor found it negligent in the death of 20-year-old student Declan Sullivan.

The delay comes after the university followed up on an informal meeting with state officials last week by filing a "notice of contest" Tuesday that allows Notre Dame and the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration to keep talking.

 

The school now has another 45 days to pay the fine or begin the process to appeal agency's findings, IOSHA spokeswoman Stephanie McFarland said. Before Tuesday's filing, the deadline to pay or appeal would have been today.

The state report declared that the school's negligence led to the death of Sullivan, a junior from Long Grove. The report's findings included that the school improperly maintained equipment and trained staff. The $77,500 is the steepest fine IOSHA could administer, given the circumstances.

Notre Dame asked for the meeting last week seeking clarifications on the March 15 report, McFarland said.

"This was a very complex investigation, it's a longer report, hundreds of pages, many are handwritten," she added.

Sullivan, a film major, died Oct. 27 after high winds toppled a hydraulic scissor lift from which he was video recording a Notre Dame football practice. The report states Sullivan was suspended 35-feet in the air when winds, which had reached 53 mph that day, blew it over. IOSHA later reported that Notre Dame ignored warnings from the lift's manufacturer to avoid use when winds reach 28 mph.

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The school also did not train Sullivan on how to use the lifts, as IOSHA officials said student videographers only knew how to make the lift go up and down.

Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown on Thursday called discussions between IOSHA and the university "positive and productive." The school and IOSHA are close to resolution on the matter, he added.

Conferences like last week's are normal, McFarland said.

"It's so they may gain clarity and ask questions," she said.

While the delay could be a precursor to an appeal, McFarland said in situations like this the fined party often only wants more information. She would not say which officials met last week. Notre Dame also divulged little.

"As for the specifics of the discussions, we will keep them confidential until there is a final resolution," Brown said.

Football coach Brian Kelly has said little on the matter publicly, but the school has since discontinued the use of scissor lifts for recording football practices. Instead, the university will deploy an automated camera system mounted on 50-foot poles at the practice fields.

Michael Miley, Sullivan's uncle and a family spokesman, said he had not heard about Notre Dame's meeting with IOSHA.

"Since this is the first I've heard of this, I have no comment, I don't know the details," he said.