SOUTH BEND — Ninety minutes before tragedy struck Wednesday, Notre Dame junior Declan Sullivan publicly expressed his fear about the situation.
Sullivan, a 20-year-old from Long Grove, Ill., died after the scissor lift from which he was filming Notre Dame football practice toppled, apparently under the force of winds exceeding 50 mph.
The accident happened at 4:50 p.m. Earlier in the afternoon, Sullivan made Twitter posts to his Facebook site talking about the fear he had filming in such adverse conditions.
A person associated with Notre Dame, who wished to remain anonymous, made available to The Tribune the postings of Sullivan, who was a student video worker.
At 3:22 p.m., just before the start of practice, he posted, "Gusts of wind up to 60 mph well today will be fun at work ... I guess I've lived long enough."
At 4:06 p.m., "Holy (expletive) holy (expletive) this is terrifying."
Forty-four minutes later, the portable tower, which stands about 50 feet above the field, tipped over.
The tower was located beyond the north end zone of the middle of three fields at the LaBar Practice Facility, just east of the Joyce Center.
It's one of four such portable lifts at the facility, but it's not known if all four were up at one point in the day.
When the lift fell, it broke through the fence of the practice facility and came to rest in the street, just south of the tennis courts.
Sullivan was rushed to Memorial Hospital, where he later died.
After the accident, Notre Dame football players were on the field for about 25 minutes before leaving the field quietly, about 15 minutes before the scheduled end of practice.
Tuesday, for the first time this season, head coach Brian Kelly had his team practice inside the Loftus Center because of the extreme weather conditions.
Notre Dame officials did not answer any questions after the accident. Their only communications were news releases. None of the releases noted who made the decision to practice outside Wednesday.
Notre Dame Security Police were handling the investigation, which was ongoing throughout the night.
According to WSBT meteorologist Rick Mecklenburg, the highest winds of the day occurred just before 5 p.m. The peak wind gust at that time was 53 mph. The highest sustained wind was just under 40 mph.
Making matters worse, the corridor just north of the Joyce Center became a wind tunnel of sorts.
United Rentals provided the equipment to Notre Dame, but it is not the manufacturer. Websites of manufacturers and distributors of similar pieces warn of raising the platform in high winds.
In fact, HHS Hire, a company that deals in lifts, specifically states that the lift should never be used in wind speeds greater than 25 mph.
"We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss," said the Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, Notre Dame's president, in a statement. "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 shares in the family's grief."
Likewise, Kelly issued a statement Wednesday night:
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Declan's family and friends. Declan was a diligent student worker in our video department and had a tremendous personality and great sense of humor.
"He brightened the days for all that had the privilege to work with him, and the Notre Dame football family will dearly miss him."
Sullivan lived in Fisher Hall. He was a writer for The Observer, Notre Dame's student newspaper, according to the paper's website.
A special Mass will be held at the University of Notre Dame tonight in memory of Sullivan. Jenkins will preside over the Mass, which will begin at 10 p.m. in Sacred Heart Basilica.
Tribune staff writers Eric Hansen and Mary Kate Malone contributed to this report.