In Notre Dame's first public statements after the death of Declan Sullivan, athletic director Jack Swarbrick gave a detailed account of his experience prior, during and after the accident.
On Thursday, Swarbrick said he arrived at the outdoor practice facility minutes before the portable lift that Sullivan was filming practice from fell over.
Here is the athletic director's account of what happened Wednesday:
My personal involvement began when I went to practice (Wednesday). I had a conference call at 4:30 (p.m.) that lasted about 15 minutes. So I would guess, I entered the practice facility sometime around 4:47 or 4:48. I walked across the north end of the west field, toward the middle of the area between the two synthetic fields.
It was an unremarkable journey in the sense that practice was normal, plays were being conducted with no difficulty. Matter of fact, I witnessed two completed passes as I was walking up and greeted someone.
I turned to face north and experienced a pretty extraordinary burst of wind. Things started flying by me that otherwise had been stationary for all of practice – Gatorade containers, towels, et cetera.
I noticed the netting on the goal posts start to bend dramatically, and I heard a crash. At first I couldn't orient the location of the crash. Because of course the source of the crash was something that wasn't there anymore. It was missing. The scissor lift had fallen north outside the practice field.
The response was extraordinary in every way. People at the practice field responded instantly, that response involved our training staff, our medical trainers, coaches and players, who responded by climbing through and around the scissor lift to try to see if they could assist Declan.
The call was made immediately, and I think the first responders, in the form of Notre Dame security police, were probably there within three minutes. Coach (Brian) Kelly and I focused on getting the athletes back into the practice area, away from the scene of the accident. Urged those players and coaches to get the players back inside that area, so the safety and medical personnel could do their job and also so we could have the players back in a controlled area.
Coach Kelly remained with me out there as the security personnel arrived, I think as many as four police cars. The next responders were the fire department for Notre Dame. And following that, finally an ambulance from South Bend. All responded very quickly, all acted with great professionalism and care.
Coach Kelly remained with me by Declan until the ambulance attendants had Declan up on the lift. Then he went back into the practice area. Shortly thereafter and before the ambulance departed, the team left the practice area and went into the (Guglielmino Athletics Complex) to terminate the practice.
We immediately secured the area. No one from the time the lift fell, through this moment, has been able to traverse that road or that sidewalk. We have it secured so we can begin the process of investigating the accident.
We kept in close contact, we sent people ahead to the hospital and we had people in the ambulance with Declan. I received calls from the ambulance en route and knew that before Declan arrived at the hospital that he was no longer breathing on his own. And shortly after his arrival there, I received confirmation that he had passed away.
I shared that information with coach Kelly, and then we assembled the coaching staff and shared the information with them.
We contacted the president's office, student affairs. The call to student affairs caused Fr. Tom Doyle, as the university's representative, to reach out to the parents and call them. He made that call. At the request of Declan's father, they agreed that he, Declan's father, Barry, would want to tell Declan's sister. They waited until she was back at her dormitory. Father Doyle was on site and Mr. Sullivan called his daughter to inform her.
After some time spent working to make various arrangements that needed to be made, I returned to the Guglielmino building for a 7 o'clock meeting with the team. The entire Notre Dame football family was assembled. Players, coaches, managers, administrative staff, and we shared with them the news. In that communication, we focused on our shared grief, we focused on our intention to remember and celebrate Declan as a member of our family, and we stressed the importance to the members of the football family to be mindful of their own emotional and mental state. And make share they were aware of pastoral care is available to them. We stressed to them the availability of counseling that is available to them. After that, we dismissed the players.
Following that, coach Kelly and I spent about an hour together. It was a very emotional evening for him, and I tried to provide some support to him and the other coaches through that period of time.