Terlickers Settle for $450,000 -- Family Makes Safety Training Part of the Pang Deal
The city of Seattle paid the family of Randall Terlicker, one of four firefighters killed in the 1995 Pang warehouse blaze, $ 450,000 in an out-of-court settlement and promised to name its training swimming pool after him, officials revealed yesterday. The city also agreed, as part of the settlement, to take steps to improve training and increase awareness of safety to minimize the possibility of a similar tragedy from happening - and, if it is approved by the Seattle City Council, to place a plaque honoring Terlicker and the three other firefighters at a new training center.
"Nothing can replace Randall. But by getting these things . . his life will at least have some meaning to it," said Colleen Terlicker, the 70-year-old mother of the firefighter.
The city will name the training pool for Terlicker, a swimming instructor and coach who had been an aquatics director at the Lynnwood Parks and Recreation swimming pool.
But his mother dismissed the notion that the settlement would bring closure to the tragedy that has filled their lives for almost four years.
"Everyone asks about closure," she said, "and I don't really believe there is such a thing. It doesn't exist in my mind. Our lives have been changed completely, and Randy will never be with us again."
The Terlicker family had filed a wrongful-death suit against the city, alleging that the death of Terlicker, 35, was partly due to poor training resulting in unsafe conditions.
In a statement released yesterday Seattle Fire Chief James Sewell said: "We hope that the settlement of this case will bring some peace to Randy's family. We also hope that resolving this case will help in our own healing process as a department."
The city still faces wrongful-death lawsuits from the family members of the three other firefighters killed in the blaze: Walter Kilgore, 45; Gregory Shoemaker, 43; and James Brown, 25.
And while the city gave $ 450,000 to the Terlicker family, it is likely the amount the city would have to pay the other families would be much higher if an out-of-court settlement is reached.
The primary reason is that the wrongful-death law only allows a party to recover economic losses - and not pain and suffering damages - if the victim was not married and had no children.
Because Terlicker was single and had no children, his attorneys could not have sought, had they taken the case to court, damages for pain and suffering.
"It is a quirk in the law," said Bill Marler, the Terlickers' attorney.
But the other three firefighters were all married, and they all had children. Marler said the family's willingness to settle out-of-court was increased because the city already had taken steps to improve training and increase safety awareness.
"We want to commend the city for really trying to figure out a way to prevent this problem from happening again," Marler said.
Shortly after the Jan. 5, 1995, fire, which Martin Pang set at his parents' frozen-food warehouse in Seattle's Chinatown International District, the Fire Department was sharply criticized for failing to have in place a series of operational procedures that may have prevented the death of Terlicker and the other three firefighters.
For example, the men were battling the blaze when the floor collapsed into the burning basement. But they had not been told before entering the building that the building had a basement.
Since the fire, however, the Fire Department has taken several steps to have fire-station companies survey buildings that may present "unique" firefighting hazards.
Additionally, firefighters have received training in building construction and been provided with methods to improve awareness of structural weaknesses to improve firefighting tactics.
Pang was sentenced earlier this year to 35 years in prison for setting the fire that killed four Seattle firefighters, but with good behavior and credit for serving nearly 12 months in a Brazilian jail, he could be free in 22 years.
On Tuesday, he was ordered to pay nearly $ 1 million restitution to victims and insurance companies, although his attorney said that Pang has only $ 200 to his name.