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Westport crash a year later: Developments in KCFD wreck that killed 3

Deadly Westport crash anniversary
Posted at 5:30 AM, Dec 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-15 19:40:25-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's been one year since a Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department pumper ran a red light and crashed into an SUV in Westport, killing three people.

The crash was so powerful the vehicles rammed into the former Riot Room near Westport Road and Broadway Boulevard, partially collapsing the building.

Westport Crash.png

The day after the crash, KCFD Chief Donna Lake spoke at a news conference. It would be the only time the public would hear from her.

“As first responders, our job is to make incidents better and respond to emergencies, and last night was just a tragic collision that happened," Lake said at the time.

Kansas City, Missouri, police later confirmed the driver and passenger in the SUV, Jennifer San Nicolas and Michael Elwood, died.

“I don’t think that there’s been a day or two that goes by that I don’t end up crying about it again," Nathan Elwood, Michael Elwood's brother, said in an interview with KSHB 41.

The third victim, Tami Knight, was walking on the sidewalk with her boyfriend the night of the crash.

“She was an incredible person that really wanted to be positive for everybody," Courtney Crutcher, a friend of Knight, said after her death.

In the days that followed, the KSHB 41 I-Team spoke with a crash reconstruction expert, who said the intersection presented a danger for such crashes.

“There’s very little time to see a vehicle coming into the intersection here," John Glennon of Crash Forensics said. "There’s no visibility in the approach at all."

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, which have named the city, its fire department, and the driver of the KCFD pumper truck that night, Dominic Biscari.

“We didn’t want to file a lawsuit," Elwood said. "We want our brother back. We want to turn back time to when my brother was still alive."

KCPD turned over the results of its investigation in February to the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. That review will decide whether Biscari will face charges, but no decision has been made public yet.

"Our office is aware of the upcoming one-year anniversary of this incident," Mike Mansur, a spokesman for the Jackson County prosecutor, said in a statement to the I-Team. "We are in contact with the defense attorney for the individual involved, and we are actively working on this matter."

Through a public records request, the I-Team obtained several videos of the deadly crash, with the multiple perspectives providing the most-complete perspective of the crash.

KCFD Westport Crash City Camera.jpg
A collage of city cameras showing the moments before a Kansas City, Missouri, fire truck was involved in a crash on Dec. 15, 2021 near the intersection of Broadway Boulevard and Westport Road in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I think it’s important for accountability," Elwood said.

In August, the I-Team revealed an email expressing concerns about the pumper truck driver months before the deadly crash.

A paramedic describes an incident in the email in which she said she feared for her life, because Biscari was going so fast driving an ambulance that it went airborne.

Westport crash email
Westport crash email

“It’s very troubling," Tim Dollar, an attorney for the Elwood family, said. "It’s a notice to the city well in advance of three people losing their lives that this driver was put in a position by the city that risks the lives of their own employees and other members of our community."

An independent arbitrator in October said the pumper truck driver 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 the next day as Biscari and the fire union teamed up with the families of the three victims, seeking more than $32 million from the city in a lawsuit.

The I-Team repeatedly has tried to sit down with Chief Lake about what changes have been put in place at the department, how the prior complaint about Biscari was handled, and what Biscari's current role is at the fire department.

She has yet to agree to an interview request and the Jackson County prosecutor has not made a decision about whether Biscari will face charges despite having the case for 10 months.

That decision looms as one of the next big developments in the case.

Deadly KCFD Westport crash: One year later by KSHB Producer

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