Commission nixes settlement in failed rescue

A settlement with the family of a Seattle man who fell to his death during a failed rescue attempt by an off-duty firefighter in 2006 has been soundly rejected.

The Fire Commission voted unanimously 4-0 to reject a deal hashed out by the City Attorney’s Office for an undisclosed amount of money after the family of 26-year-old Nicholas Torrico filed a federal civil lawsuit in 2007. The lawsuit alleges that Torrico would still be alive if San Francisco Fire Department Lt. Victor Wyrsch hadn’t attempted the rescue.

Witnesses said Torrico climbed to the edge of the roof of a four-story building in Nob Hill on Oct. 12, 2006, and appeared poised to jump. When Wyrsch climbed up to intervene, Torrico wrestled himself from the fireman’s arms and fell, Wyrsch told The Examiner in 2006.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera can try to renegotiate the settlement that would better suit the commission, or take the case to the Board of Supervisors without the commission’s recommendation, said spokesman Matt Dorsey.

The victim’s sister Cynthia Torrico said her parents have not accepted any settlement either. She said the family’s attorney will ask a judge to find The City in contempt of court for not resolving the issue in a reasonable time period. She said the hearing is scheduled for a week from today.

Torrico’s family has said he was not suicidal at the time, but Wyrsch, in an interview with The Examiner after the incident, said Torrico “was fighting to get over the ledge.”

Though the lawsuit alleged that Wyrsch had recklessly ignored safety protocols, the San Francisco Fire Department has defended him and chose not to take disciplinary actions against him. Wyrsch remains a firefighter for The City. Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said Thursday she supports the commission’s decision.

Dorsey said Herrera is considering the Fire Commission’s concerns — which he declined to disclose — but has not yet decided how to proceed.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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