Remembering Declan Sullivan one year later

Where the leaves blow outside of the Notre Dame football building, now sits a rock.

"Every day when you leave, there's a great way to remember him," Irish center Braxston Cave says.

That rock is just a stones throw away from the Irish practice field and less than a football field away from where it happened one year ago.

"It never leaves you," Irish coach Brian Kelly explained this week. "We lost a young man. You never forget about that."

One year ago today, Kelly made the decision to practice outdoors.

The wind was strong, proving to be very strong that day. Gusts of 53 miles per hour were recorded at 4:50pm when things turned tragic.

"I heard a crash," Irish Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said last October.

Everyone rushed off the field and into the street--where a scissor lift and the student videographer that was on it, blew over and crashed into the ground.

Declan Sullivan, A 20-year-old junior from the Chicago suburbs was dead.

"It was definitely a day we'll never forget," captain Harrison Smith said this week. "But more importantly it's the person that we will never forget--what he meant to all of us here."

"There is no greater sadness for a university community then the death of one of its students," Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins explained the day after the accident.

Since that tragic week, the Sullivan family has remained in close contact with the University. The family tells NewsCenter 16 they do not blame the University for Declan's death although they certainly view the tragedy as a preventable one. For that reason, they are working with Notre Dame to ensure something like this will never happen again.

The family says it never has pursued or plans to pursue any form of settlement from Notre Dame.

A lot has changed over the last year. Notre Dame videographers no longer use those scissor lifts. Practice is now taped from the permanent structures and through the use of a state of the art remote control camera system.

The University went through multiple investigations--one of its own and one from IOSHA. Notre Dame settled for $42,000 in fines with IOSHA for not following the proper safety guidelines in the usage of scissor lifts.

Last Saturday, during a private and small ceremony, The Sullivan family and Notre Dame dedicated its new memorial. The marker displays a shamrock with Declan's name.

Part of the inscription reads, "he died while chasing his dreams. Now he lives in ours."

Coach Kelly certainly has fond memories of Sullivan. Kelly said he had a relationship with Declan that he didn't have with almost any other student assistant in 20 years of coaching. Kelly said that was because of all the extra time Sullivan would put in at the football office.

"A lover of film and writing-- a great writer," Kelly reflected following Notre Dame's loss to Tulsa three days after Sullivan's death. "I got great memories of him being in the film and video offices and putting things together secretive on most occasions. I'd look over his shoulder."

Because of that love, Notre Dame is establishing a memorial scholarship that will go to students who share a similar passion that Declan displayed. The family plans to hold a fundraiser in Chicago sometime in the springs.

The memorial that sits outside the Gug, also has two benches--both with a special message from each of Declan's siblings.

Declan's sister Wyn remains a student at Notre Dame even after the death of her brother. Her dedication on the bench reads, "You taught me the greatest lesson I've ever had; there's nothing worse than being ordinary."

Ordinary---something Declan definitely was not.


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