NEWSDAY (LONG ISLAND) December 27, 2005 The Mount Sinai Fire District has agreed to pay a $150,000 settlement to the family of a probationary firefighter who fell to his death in July 2002 after what witnesses described as drunken horseplay with a chief’s car after a fire department parade. The settlement, which was accepted earlier this month and now awaits a judge’s approval, follows reluctant testimony last year by a fellow volunteer who was a passenger in the sport utility vehicle driven by Assistant Chief Frederick Hess that night. Moments before he died, Bradford Amato, 23, of Mount Sinai, was leaning into the passenger-side window of Hess’ chief’s car, urging him to come drink at a local bar, according to a deposition given by firefighter Nicholas Beckman in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Amato’s family in Suffolk Supreme Court. Beckman said Hess declined and began driving down the street with Amato still half inside the window, accelerating up to about 8 or 9 mph, then stopped after about 100 feet. Hess then “played” with the electric window controls, opening and closing the window “trying to get him off the truck.” After a few more exchanges, Amato appeared to move away from the vehicle and Hess drove off, before stopping short when he saw the young volunteer lying in the street, Beckman said. The volunteers then lifted Amato into Hess’ chief’s car and drove him to nearby St. Charles Hospital. He was later moved to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead of blunt force head trauma The drinking had begun in the afternoon at a party behind the Miller Place Fire Department where beer, soft drinks and hot dogs were served to the volunteers for several hours, witnesses said. Hess was the department’s “designated driver” that night, and after they returned from Miller Place, he persuaded Amato to leave his own car in the Mount Sinai fire district lot for safety and ride with him to Tara’s, a Port Jefferson bar, where several volunteers were drinking together. Amato’s fall occurred on the way from Tara’s to Billy’s, a second bar. Autopsy results confirmed witness reports that Amato was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Police did not test Hess’ blood alcohol because they were not notified until hours afterward, but no one reported signs he was intoxicated, according to witnesses and the Amatos’ attorney, Jerry Garguilo. Hess, a New York City firefighter, initially gave a statement to police but later invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused further questioning about the accident. Hess’ attorney, William Wexler, said Hess had already spoken to police. The fire district did not open an independent investigation, or take any disciplinary action against Hess, who will be elevated to first assistant chief of the department in January, according to Richard Nolan, an attorney for the district. The Amatos contend Hess violated department regulations and emergency protocols in his conduct that night, but the district disagrees. “The board was satisfied that nothing was done improperly,” said Richard Nolan, counsel for the Mount Sinai Fire District. “This was a terrible tragedy that to my mind did not involve the chief in any wrongdoing whatsoever.” Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.