Earlier, we brought you Anonymous's account of videotaping football practice from a scissor lift under circumstances similar to those that precipitated Declan Sullivan's death. Readers sent in their own experiences with the perils of videotaping from lifts.
I performed the exact same duties as Declan as both a student and then later as an employee for a current top 25 FBS team from 1992-1996. Shooting from those lifts was unnerving on a good day. Depending on the quality of the lifts, they would rock back and forth if you moved the slightest bit. Add in wind and it was absolutely terrifying. I feel so terrible for this student.
At the time I was there, the video department functioned at the bottom end of the coaching tree. The video coordinator took orders from the video liaison for the coaches, normally a Grad Assist or Assist Coach. There was pressure to deliver "good" quality practice scouting video passed down from the liaison to the video department. Keep in mind these are 24-25 year olds passing down orders to 18-21 year olds. As with any organization, there are lots of layers in college athletics and the video department is typically at the bottom of the food chain. Coach was never directly tied to the decision on weather or not it was safe to be up in the lifts.
In 1994, I was screamed at by the video coordinator at the time, for lowering my 45ft scissor lift halfway down, during extremely high winds during a spring game. The lift was swaying 3ft in each direction and had become unstable. This video coordinator threatened to fire me on the spot at halftime and only backed off when I told him to switch places with me. Point being, this was one dumb kid, passing down orders to another dumb kid while the coaches were oblivious to what was actually happened while consumed with what is going on at the field level. That poor Declan probably had no idea he could have come down off that lift. He most likely never thought it was an option.
Once promoted to the video coordinator spot in 1995, I used another scissor lift accident, at a nearby university, as a catalyst for the athletic department to create stationary shooting platforms and have OSHA examine our workplace safety. Thankfully the AD staff and the Coaches embraced the changes and implemented an entire set of new safety policies that were enforced outside the coaching staff.
Unfortunately, most universities will only act after a tragedy like this strikes.
I also was a video assistant for an FBS football team, for two years. Now during practices I filmed from the sideline, not the end zone like Declan Sullivan and Anonymous. That meant that I (and one other person + equipment) was in between the team's two practice fields in one of these (a boom lift, not a scissor lift):
It's hard to tell from one picture, but there are basically three ways you can go upwards in one of these:
1) Raise the angle of the main arm away from the ground
2) Extend the length of that arm
3) Raise the angle of the bucket itself
Now we always did 1 and 2 as far as possible, but 3 just enough to give us good visibility. One day when it was very windy I remember us fighting directly with our head coach, who wanted us to go up as high as absolutely possible (because this allows you to film maybe an extra yard in any direction at a time, which of course we had proof of).
Luckily my co-worker had been there longer than the coach (and the coach was in his 6th or 7th year at that point) so they argued back and forth, and she talked him out of it.
Not the best story, I know. Overall though, from my experience, I would say that any FBS coach will take a perceived edge in analyzing their team over the safety of their staff, 99 times out of 100.
One more thing - filming field goal kicking without a net in front of you, like we had to do in our practice bubble, is a fun time. I remember being told as I went up for the first time: "Make sure you get the shot, and don't let anything happen to the camera, it's worth more than you. Other than that, good luck." That's more of just a funny story though, getting hit by a football isn't exactly life-threatening.
I have been a videographer since i was 17 both for my high school and college. my high school used a scaffolding and my college uses a scissor lift, similar to that of Notre Dames. After that incident i refused to go up on it anytime after this, good or bad. even if the wind is only 10-15 m.p.h. Not mention the threat of field goals and shaky railings that could lead to a fall. there was one game two years ago hail, sleet snow mixture, and one of the coaches forced me to stay up on the lift. luckily nothing this tragic happend to me, but very well could have. i had a poncho and umbrella and both flew off of me. i just remember the left swaying back and forth. the winds were not as strong but violent none the less. these things go as high or just as high as a regulation NCAA goal post. but every program in the country uses 1 or more. however there is equipment available such as ravens and skyhawks that can be used to get the same angle that these lifts get, while the operator is safely on ground level or even inside. i never understood why coaches feel the need to rent lifts for season for virtually the same price as one of the skyhawks or ravens, and those can last longer and now we see, can save a work study kid's life.
here is a link to the equipment im talking about.
Keep sending your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject "scissor lift."