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Notre Dame: Old Weather Reports Used When Student Died

Updated 4/18/2011 at 5:15 p.m.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CBS) -- The University of Notre Dame released a report Monday that they hope will finally put to rest the death of student Declan Sullivan last fall.

The 145-page report concluded that the football staff was using outdated weather reports when they decided to place Sullivan on a hydraulic scissor lift to videotape football practice, and staff did not know a wind advisory was in effect.

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Sullivan, 20, was killed on Oct. 27, 2010, when the left he was standing on toppled over.

The university's policy prohibited use of the lifts in wind gusts over 35 mph. Forensic examination of computers showed officials checked weather websites six times prior to allowing videographers to take the field.  They apparently had no idea that information was not updated minute by minute.

"Consequently, the data our staff accessed could have lagged real-time data by as much as an hour," Notre Dame Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves said at a Monday news conference.

The investigation revealed that had the final check been made just eight minutes later, data would have been updated showing that wind speeds had grown to dangerous levels and use of the lifts would have been cancelled.

The report also said the lift used, a Marklift brand model, tipped more easily than some other models. The height of the lift, and the simple fact of the wind itself, were also blamed for the accident.

But ultimately, the report said there was no one single cause to which the accident could be attributed.

In an open letter at the start of the report, Notre Dame president the Rev. John I. Jenkins said there also was no one single person who could be blamed for the accident.

"After a thorough and painstaking study in which numerous university personnel were interviewed and external experts consulted, we have reached the conclusion that no one acted in disregard for safety," he wrote. "Each individual involved based his decisions and actions that day on the best information available at the time and in accord with the procedures that were in place."

He said the university was collectively responsible given the inadequacy of the school's safety regulations regarding high winds.

"The university, then, is collectively responsible," Jenkins wrote. "Insofar as the President is responsible for the university as a whole, I am the individual who bears the most responsibility, and I accept that responsibility."

Sullivan, of Long Grove, tweeted his fears about the danger of the wind within an hour of his death.

"Gusts of wind up to 60mph well today will be fun at work... I guess I've lived long enough :-/" Sullivan wrote in one post on Twitter and Facebook.

The sarcasm stopped about an hour later, when he wrote, "Holy f--- holy f--- this is terrifying."

Last month, the Indiana Department of Labor fined Notre Dame $55,000 for knowingly exposing Sullivan and two other videographers to unsafe conditions, and $22,500 for five other violations.

Also last month, the university said they will no longer mount students on hydraulic lifts to videotape football practice. A remote video system is now in use to tape practices, composed of four cameras atop 50-foot-high poles.

Sullivan's family declined to comment on the report Monday.

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