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KCFD changes driving policy more than a year after deadly Westport crash

New policy requires drivers to stop at red lights, limits speeding
westport crash
Posted at 3:33 PM, Mar 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-02 21:53:07-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department recently changed its driving policy for responding to an emergency more than a year after a deadly Westport crash involving a KCFD pumper, the KSHB 41 I-Team learned.

A KCFD pumper truck ran a red light northbound on Broadway Boulevard in December 2021 and crashed into an SUV crossing Broadway at a green light on Westport Road.

The wreck left three people dead — Michael Elwood, Jennifer San Nicolas, and Tami Knight — before the vehicles also crashed into a nearby building, which partially collapsed.

The I-Team filed a public records request, which uncovered the new driving policy.

Interim Fire Chief Ross Grundyson issued a directive Feb. 10 to all employees, changing KCFD's driving policies — though the changes were never publicly announced.

The biggest policy change requires KCFD drivers to come to a complete stop in a number of circumstances — including red lights, stop signs and when the driver cannot account for all lanes of traffic at an intersection.

It's a change from the old policy the I-Team reported on last year.

That policy stated that drivers "shall exercise caution and may proceed for a safe operation without coming to a complete stop," including at red lights and stop signs.

KCFD said the new policy lines up with national standards, but Grundyson's office did not respond to an I-Team request for more information about what led to the directive, including if the Westport crash was a factor in the policy change.

IAFF Local 42 President Daniel Heizman said he supports the changes and the union, which represents KCFD, has been pushing for them for months.

The safety of the citizens of Kansas City and the employees we represent is paramount to our organization. Local 42 has pushed for policy changes to the way the Fire Department trains its personnel and operates its fire and ems vehicles for a long time.

Those efforts were met with considerable resistance from the previous Fire Chief and city bureaucracy. Local 42 is hopeful that changes such as this signal a renewed investment in a meaningful labor management partnership focused on providing the world class level of Fire and EMS services that the citizens of Kansas City deserve.
Daniel Heizman, president of IAFF Local 42

The new KCFD directive also clarifies that emergency vehicles can't travel more than 15 mph above the posted speed limit.

Suspended KCFD firefighter Dominic Biscari was driving the pumper involved in the Westport crash at more than 51 mph in a 35-mph zone.

Biscari entered an Alford plea last week and was subsequently convicted of three counts of second-degree involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of Elwood, Knight and San Nicolas.

The Westport victims' families did not have a comment regarding the new KCFD driving policy.

Biscari's attorney, Kevin Regan, sent KSHB 41 a statement.

"We are encouraged by this new directive from the fire department," Regan said in the statement. "For several months, firefighters have been requesting this type of change in procedure and initially were rejected by the City. This is a good step in the right direction for better safety rules and regulations to prevent future similar accidents. We hope the City takes additional necessary safety measures soon to keep its first responders and citizens safe."

Biscari was placed on three years' probation in the case and KCFD plans to terminate him, but Regan said his client will fight the suspension and firing.