NewsLocal NewsInvestigations


'There’s some closure': Westport crash victims’ families reflect as lawsuits, settlements wrap up

Westport KCFD pumper truck crash victims.jpg
Posted at 5:10 PM, Aug 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-17 23:21:58-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The final lawsuit related to the deadly Westport crash involving a Kansas City, Missouri firetruck has been dismissed.

In that December 2021 wreck, a KCFD pumper truck ran a red light and collided with an SUV in Westport. The vehicles then crashed into a nearby building that partially collapsed.

Jennifer San Nicolas and Michael Elwood were in the SUV. Tami Knight was walking with her boyfriend when she was killed.

The KSHB 41 I-Team learned the settlements from the city, totaling nearly $3 million, have been paid out to the families of the three victims who died.

“We’re always going to miss my brother. We’re always going to wish he was here,” Nathan Elwood, Michael Elwood’s brother said.

In the days after the crash, the families of the victims filed a series of lawsuits. Those have now been settled.

“It’s just good to know that there’s some closure,” Elwood said.

More than a year after the crash, KCFD changed its driving policy when responding to an emergency.

The biggest change involved KCFD drivers needing to come to a complete stop at red lights, stop signs, and when the driver cannot account for all lanes of traffic in an intersection.

In the Westport crash, the KCFD pumper truck ran a red light and crashed into the SUV that had a green light.

KSHB 41 Investigator Cameron Taylor spoke with Tim Dollar who is representing the Elwood family.

“Do you think the safety changes implemented are enough?” Taylor asked.

“Look, every single entity that gets sued can do more. You never think there’s enough, but these are meaningful changes,” Dollar said.

Dollar also pointed to the city expanding a safety system that can change traffic lights for first responders on the way to an emergency. It’s called Opticom.

The pumper truck involved in the crash had that system installed, but the Westport intersection did not.

“I do think the things that are being put in place will prevent these types of tragedies in the future,” Elwood said.

Nathan’s focus is now sharing his brother’s legacy with the youngest members of the family like his 3-year-old daughter.

“Just that he was a loving, kind person and that he loved her deeply,” Elwood said.

Tami Knight’s family issued a statement to the I-Team.

“Tami was a special person who touched the lives of many. We miss her every day and are still in shock over what happened and how it happened. Tami was taken from us far too young and way too soon.

The resolution with the City on the breach of contract case includes provisions for the City to enhance its safety training, update its safety policies and procedures, and increase the use of safety technology.  Our family looks forward to seeing these improvements so everyone is more safe.

Finally we want Tami's memory and spirit to live forward and we are working on a meaningful memorial to honor her.”

Judy Holland and family

The I-Team reached out to the fire department to find out if any other policies have changed. They did not have any more information at this time.

The I-Team contacted the city to see if they plan to install an Opticom system at the Westport intersection, but never heard back.