KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City firefighter has pleaded guilty to multiple charges in a deadly 2021 crash in Westport.
On Tuesday, prosecutors charged Dominic Biscari with three counts of second-degree involuntary manslaughter. He appeared in court that afternoon, where he entered a guilty plea to the charges.
As part of the plea deal, a judge suspended Biscari’s sentence, leaving him with three years of probation. He will also not be allowed to carry firearms or have no contact with the victims’ families and will be required to complete community service.
Biscari’s attorney released a statement, saying in part: “Sadly, the city has failed Dominic and his fellow firefighters in several ways. We hope the city will take measures to make sure this type of accident never happens again.” Read the full statement here.
Biscari was behind the wheel of a Kansas City firetruck when it crashed into an oncoming vehicle and then into a building near Broadway Avenue and Westport Road in December 2021.
The crash killed 41-year-old Jennifer San Nicolas and 25-year-old Michael J. Elwood. Both were in a SUV when it collided with the firetruck. A pedestrian, 41-year-old Tami N. Knight, also died in the crash.
Kansas City Fire Chief Ross Grundyson released the following statement:
“The city will seek Dominic Biscari’s termination from the Kansas City Fire Department. He is suspended without pay pending an internal investigation.”
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker released the following statement:
“My office has been in contact with the attorneys for the victims’ families over the course of our review of this case. Our office and the community send these families our deepest condolences.
“Though this plea will not restore their lives or heal their grief, it demonstrates a level of accountability for the actions of the firefighter who carried a public duty. We also hope this motivates further review of the best and the safest practices for operating public vehicles. Our community requires more care.”
The firetruck was responding to a possible weather-related fire when the department said it was called off and another firetruck was dispatched.
Instead of stopping, video shows the firetruck, with lights and sirens on, continued north on Broadway Avenue and drove through the intersection on a red light. The crash happened about a minute later.
The force of the crash sent the vehicles into a Westport building that partially collapsed.
Knight’s boyfriend, who she was with just before the crash, said he heard sirens approaching and then heard a collision, court records say. His vehicle was suddenly pushed by another vehicle before the firetruck crashed into the building.
The man said he yelled for Knight but didn’t hear a response. He heard the building making noises and evacuated before it collapsed.
Court documents filed Tuesday say the firetruck was equipped with an onboard Vehicle Data Recorder. The data showed Biscari was traveling 51 mph in a 35 mph zone when the crash occurred. The documents show investigators believe the Honda was driving 30 mph in a 25 mph zone.
Biscari told investigators he thought he slowed down to 30 mph, court records say. He also told investigators he didn’t see anything while approaching the intersection and had lights and sirens on.
The KC firefighter said he “slammed” on the brakes but was unable to avoid the crash. But charging documents say investigators determined he ran the light at full throttle without braking.
The other firefighters on board said they were putting their gear on, and none of them saw what color the traffic light was at the time of the crash. One firefighter said he saw the Honda out of the corner of his eye, but it was too late for him to say anything, court records say.
Members of KCPD’s Accident Investigation Unit, who responded to the scene, determined Biscari entered the intersection with a limited view, through a red light, and at a speed that was too fast for the conditions, court records say.
The families of the three victims filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, fire department and Biscari. The owner of the building that was damaged also sued the city.
In November, the Kansas City Council authorized the city attorney to use $1.8 million to resolve four lawsuits. State law caps the city’s liability for all the lawsuits at $1.8 million.
There are still other lawsuits still pending against Biscari and against the city in this crash.