Report: NYC Firefighters Lied About Fight

NEW YORK (AP) -- After an alcohol-fueled argument between two on-duty firefighters left one man critically injured, the firefighters in the room lied to make it appear the man's injuries were an accident, according to a report released Wednesday.

The firefighters - including Robert Walsh, whose jaw and nose were broken - and their bosses made false statements and broke other rules regarding the fight last New Year's Eve, according to the report by the city's Department of Investigation.

The cover-up quickly fell apart, and all 50 members of the firehouse were reassigned to other companies.

Walsh's attacker, Michael Silvestri, has pleaded innocent to assault and other charges. He has been suspended and assigned to restricted duties.

``The ... personnel involved were determined to handle this incident 'in-house' and their way,'' said the report, based on interviews with firefighters and department records.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta responded with a statement, saying he suspended two lieutenants and two firefighters who were involved.

The incident has embarrassed a department lionized by New Yorkers since the Sept. 11 attack, in which 343 firefighters were killed.

The captain overseeing the firehouse, Terrence Sweeney, was demoted, forced to retire and ordered to pay a fine of $90,000 _ one year's pay. The incident led to a crackdown on drinking in firehouses, which is against department rules.

Authorities allege that Silvestri hit fellow firefighter Robert Walsh across the face with a steel chair during the argument. Walsh remains on medical leave.

The report found the two men had been sitting at a kitchen table, drinking beer and bickering ``about the date of Elvis Presley's birthday'' and ``Silvestri's excessive overtime'' before the fight started.

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