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Court documents: KCFD leaders unaware of driver complaints before deadly Westport crash

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Posted at 5:10 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 19:24:45-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Top leaders at the Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department did not know about the concerns raised about one of their pumper-truck drivers until after the deadly crash in Westport, according to court documents obtained by the KSHB 41 I-Team.

An email sent months before the crash detailed concerns and complaints about the fire truck driver.

A KCFD paramedic used terms like "horrendous driving" and "dangerous" in her email to supervisors.

The latest development comes from sworn testimony by KCFD Assistant Chief James Walker in civil lawsuits filed against the city, fire department and the driver, Dominic Biscari.

Portions of the deposition obtained by the I-Team focus on the KCFD paramedic's email.

Walker launched an investigation into why he wasn't told about the email when it was first sent last September.

In sworn testimony, Walker answered questions from attorney Tim Dollar, who represents Michael Elwood's family.

RELATED | 'This was preventable': Brother of Westport crash victim speaks out

Elwood, who was a passenger in the SUV struck by the KCFD pumper truck, and two others, Jennifer San Nicolas and Tami Knight, died in the Westport crash.

The families of San Nicolas, who was driving the SUV, and Knight, who was a pedestrian on the sidewalk, also have filed civil suits, which a Jackson County judge consolidated into one case.

Below are portions of the deposition.

Dollar: When something like this is put on the desk of a captain and a battalion chief, something should be done?

Walker: Yes.

Later, the assistant chief said he conducted an investigation.

Walker: When this came to light, we — I conducted an investigation into why nothing was — why this wasn't brought to my attention.

Dollar: Well, who did you talk to?

Walker: We conducted fact finding of employees. It's in their personnel file, so I'm not — I don't know if I'm at liberty to discuss people's personnel files.

A city attorney then advised Walker not to talk about the personnel files.

In the email from the paramedic, she said another employee told her Biscari made a medical student who was riding along "physically ill."

Walker said in the deposition that he's heard of people getting sick from someone else's driving before, but understood the email raised an issue.

Dollar: Dangerous to the public, true?

Walker: That's what it says, yes.

Dollar addressed another portion of the complaint that Biscari drove 70 mph northbound on Broadway Boulevard in late September.

Dollar: You wouldn't expect a pumper or any firefighter apparatus, whether lights or sirens or not, to be going 70 miles per hour north on Broadway, would you?

Walker: No.

The assistant chief later elaborated on how the department trains drivers.

Walker: We train people to be cautious drivers.

Dollar: They know better than to do 70 miles per hour north on Broadway, correct?

Walker: Correct.

Dollar: The captain knows better, correct?

Walker: Correct.

Dollar: The battalion chief knows better, correct?

Walker: Correct.

Dollar: Biscari should have known better, correct?

Walker: Correct.

Dollar: If you trained him right, he should know, correct?

Walker: Correct.

Later, Walker addressed training again.

Walker: We train people to be cautious because it's our families out there as well, yes.

Dollar: And here we know they didn't, right?

Walker: Correct.

The I-Team contacted KCFD and a spokesman said their statement has not changed: "We do not have a comment, as this is a pending investigation."

KSHB 41 has been trying to reach Biscari's attorney since Thursday, Aug. 25, but have yet to hear from him.

Attorneys representing the families of the Westport crash victims filed a motion, seeking to have KCFD answer questions about the investigation into the email and for the city to produce any documents about Biscari's history of unsafe driving and conduct.

A legal expert said the plaintiffs' attorneys have a strong argument.

"In a case like this where it appears that there are investigation records within a personnel file, the judge could quite easily review the personnel file, flag everything that relates to the investigation and have that produced to the other side," Mikah Thompson, a UMKC law professor, said.

Personnel files in Missouri are closed records, under the state's Sunshine Law.

The I-Team will monitor how a judge rules on the motion.

Kansas City, Missouri, police turned over the results of their investigation to the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office for consideration of charges.

The KCFD pumper truck crash took place shortly before 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2021. Three people died and the impact also destroyed a building that housed the Riot Room, whose property owners also joined the civil suit.


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