KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A plea hearing has been scheduled Tuesday for the driver of the Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department pumper truck involved in the December 2021 crash that killed three people in Westport.
The Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has charged Dominic Biscari, who was driving when the KCFD pumper truck sped through a red light and caused a traffic crash, has been charged with three counts of second-degree involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.
The charging assert that Biscari acted with "criminal negligence" by entering the intersection at a red light "without braking or ensuring that it was safe" to do so.
Each count, which comes more than 14 months after fatal wreck, represents a person who died in the crash.
Involuntary manslaughter is a class E felony, punishable by one to four years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine for each count.
The plea hearing for Biscari, 22, is expected to take place at 3:30 p.m. at the Albert A. Riederer Community Justice Complex in downtown KCMO.
In statement to KSHB 41, a spokesperson for the department said KCFD will seek to terminate Biscari.
"The City will seek Dominic Biscari’s termination 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 pumper truck ran a red light while responding to a house fire in the area of East 39th Street and South Benton Avenue and crashed into an SUV in Westport, killing three people.
The driver and passenger in 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 as she walked with her boyfriend when the crash spilled off 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 crash, 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 turned over the results of its investigation in February to the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, including the determination that "Biscari entered an intersection with a limited view of cross-traffic, through a red traffic control signal, at a speed that was too fast for the conditions he faced," according to a probable cause statement.
Through a public records request, the KSHB 41 News I-Team obtained several videos of the deadly crash, including multiple angles that provide the most-complete perspective of the crash.
The I-Team also revealed in August an email expressing concerns about Biscari’s driving from months before the deadly crash.
A paramedic described an incident in the email in which she said she feared for her life, because Biscari was driving an ambulance so fast that it went airborne.
An independent arbitrator in October said Biscari was negligent and "directly caused" the deadly Westport crash, recommending more than $30 million be awarded to the victims' families and a surviving victim. A judge signed off on the award.
KCMO City Council members approved a resolution in November, attempting to resolve the civil lawsuits for $1.84 million.
The legal saga took a new twist a few days later when Biscari and IAFF Local 42, the union the represents KCFD, teamed up with the families of the three victims to seek more than $32 million from the city in a lawsuit.
Settlement of one civil lawsuit
A judge approved a $1.6-million settlement in January 2023 for the wrongful death claims related to the Westport crash.
Each of the victims' families received $540,000, including nearly $460,000 from the city. It's the same amount as the state's sovereign immunity limit of $459,893.
Sovereign immunity limits are a cap on amounts government entities pay in liability cases.
Under state law, a judge must find that the settlement is fair and reasonable before approving it.
KCMO council members previously approved a resolution seeking to resolve the civil lawsuits.
Biscari's personal vehicle insurance also paid $80,000 to each of the families.
Second civil lawsuit ongoing
That settlement did not impact the other civil lawsuit related to breach of contract claims.
Biscari and the union teamed up with the families of the three victims in November 2022, seeking more than $32 million from the city in a lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges the city previously provided legal counsel to employees, including firefighters, and "created a pattern and practice."
It claims Biscari initially had legal representation from the city, "but in the weeks that followed, the City reversed its position and withdrew as counsel for Biscari."
In response, IAFF Local 42 filed a grievance against the city, claiming its failure to provide Biscari with an attorney violated the collective bargaining agreement with the union.
The amount the lawsuit seeks, $32 million, stems from an arbitration award recommended by an arbitrator. A Jackson County District Court Judge later confirmed the arbitration award.
The lawsuit also alleges sovereign immunity and any limitations on damages do not apply because of the breach of contract claims.
Deadly KCFD Westport crash: One year later by KSHB 41 I-Team
For jurisdictions that utilize the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline, anonymous tips can be made by calling 816-474-TIPS (8477), submitting the tip online or through the free mobile app at P3Tips.com.
Annual homicide details and data for the Kansas City area are available through the KSHB 41 News Homicide Tracker, which was launched in 2015. Read the KSHB 41 News Mug Shot Policy.