KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An appeal hearing is scheduled for Tuesday for the driver of the Kansas City, Missouri fire truck involved in the December 2021 crash that killed three people in Westport.
The Jackson County Attorney’s Office charged Dominic Biscari, who was driving when the KCFD’s fire engine ran a red light and caused a traffic accident, was charged with three counts of second-degree manslaughter, according to court documents.
The indictment says Biscari acted with “criminal negligence” by entering the intersection at a red light “without braking or making sure it was safe” to do so.
Each count, which comes more than 14 months after the deadly disaster, represents one person who died in the crash.
Manslaughter is a Class E felony, punishable by one to four years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine on each count.
The appeals hearing for Biscari, 22, is scheduled to take place at 3:30 p.m. at the Albert A. Riederer Community Justice Complex in downtown KCMO.
In a statement to KSHB 41, a spokesperson for the department said KCFD will seek to eliminate Biscari.
“The city will seek the termination of Dominic Biscari from the Kansas City Fire Department,” KCFD Chief Ross Grundyson said in a statement. “He is suspended without pay pending an internal investigation.”
How we got here
On December 15, 2021, a KCFD pump truck ran a red light while responding to a house fire in the East 39th Street and South Benton Avenue area and crashed into an SUV in Westport, killing three people.
The driver and passenger of the SUV involved in the crash, Jennifer San Nicolas, 41, and Michael Elwood, 25, died along with Tami Knight, 41, a pedestrian on a nearby sidewalk who was killed while walking with the her boyfriend during the accident. overturned from the roadway.
The former Riot Room near Westport Road and Broadway Boulevard partially collapsed due to the force of the wreck.
Less than a month after the incident, the Elwood family filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
It was the first in a series of civil lawsuits that named KCFD, the city, and Biscari as defendants. The lawsuits were later consolidated.
KCPD delivered the findings of its February investigation to the Jackson County Attorney’s Office, including the determination that “Biscari entered an intersection with a limited view of cross traffic, through a traffic control red light, at too high a speed for the conditions it faced,” according to a probable cause statement.
Through a public records request, the KSHB 41 News I-Team obtained several videos of the fatal crash, including multiple angles that provide the most complete perspective of the crash.
The I-Team also revealed an email in August expressing concerns about Biscari’s riding months before the fatal crash.
A paramedic described an incident in the email in which he said he feared for his life, because Biscari was driving an ambulance so fast it went airborne.
An independent arbitrator in October said Biscari was negligent and “directly caused” the deadly Westport crash, recommending that more than $30 million be awarded to the families of the victims and one surviving victim. A judge signed the award.
KCMO city council members passed a resolution in November, attempting to settle the civil lawsuits for $1.84 million.
The legal saga took a new turn a few days later, when Biscari and IAFF Local 42, the union representing KCFD, joined the families of the three victims in asking the city for more than $32 million in a lawsuit.
Settlement of a civil case
A judge approved a $1.6 million settlement in January 2023 on manslaughter charges related to the Westport crash.
Each of the victims’ families received $540,000, including nearly $460,000 from the city. That’s the same amount as the state’s $459,893 sovereign immunity limit.
Sovereign immunity caps are a cap on the amounts government entities pay in liability cases.
Under state law, a judge must deem the settlement fair and reasonable before approving it.
KCMO board members previously passed a resolution seeking to settle the civil lawsuits.
Biscari’s personal vehicle insurance also paid $80,000 to each of the families.
Second civil case pending
That settlement had no impact on the other civil lawsuit relating to breach of contract claims.
Biscari and the union worked together with the families of the three victims in November 2022, seeking more than $32 million from the city in a lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that the city previously provided legal advice to employees, including firefighters, and “created a model and a practice.”
He claims that Biscari initially had the legal representation of the city, “but in the following weeks, the Municipality reversed its position and withdrew from the position of defender of Biscari”.
In response, IAFF Local 42 filed a complaint against the city, alleging that the failure to provide Biscari with a lawyer violated the collective bargaining agreement with the union.
The amount requested in the lawsuit, $32 million, stems from an arbitration award recommended by an arbitrator. A Jackson County District Court judge later upheld the arbitration award.
The lawsuit also invokes sovereign immunity and any limitations on damages do not apply due to the breach of contractual claims.
KCFD Westport Fatal Crash: One Year Later by KSHB 41 I-Team
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