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Notre Dame Student Dies When Tower Collapses

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By Laura Strachan, Esq. on October 28, 2010 12:28 PM

Sad news out of South Bend as the Huffington Post reports that a Notre Dame student dies when a tower collapses from heavy winds. 20-year-old junior Declan Sullivan was filming football practice at the LaBar practice complex when the tower collapsed. At the time of the collapse winds in the area were reportedly close to 51 miles per hour. A day earlier, the Notre Dame football team moved their practice indoors because of the windy conditions.

The Associated Press is reporting that a state Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) official was promptly sent to the scene to investigate.

The Huffington Post quotes Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins, "Our hearts go out to the student's family and friends and our prayers and profound sympathies are with them during this incredibly difficult time. The loss of someone so young is a terrible shock and a great sadness. Our entire community share's in the family's grief."

Although the combination of blustery winds and an unsteady scissor lift about 50 feet in the air are the two likely culprits in the tower collapse, there is no official word on how exactly the deadly accident happened. The Newsr website reported some interesting details surrounding the death: Declan Sullivan was tweeting some foreboding tweets regarding his safety and concern while in the tower. The Nortre Dame student was pronounced dead at a local South Bend hospital.

So what now? In deaths such as this, the Notre Dame student's family may be looking to the law for some type of recovery from the school for allowing their son to work in such a dangerous condition. Wrongful death, improper supervision, and premises liability are three theories of recovery that parents of injured or deceased children have used in other situations, although at this point it is too early to tell.

This case is unique in that many of the sports-related death suits against a school or program stem from an actual sports injury, rather than working on the sidelines. Nevertheless, Declan Sullivan was a member of the football team and would not have been out filming the practice in those conditions if he did not feel compelled to. It should be interesting to see if and how this case develops.

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