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Parents of passenger killed in Westport crash sue Kansas City, KCFD and firetruck driver

A man in an orange vest walks past a partially collapsed two-story, brick building. Bricks and other debris have piled on the sidewalk between the man and the building.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
Three people died on Dec. 15 after a Kansas City firetruck collided with an SUV in Westport and crashed into a nearby building.

The parents of Michael Elwood allege that the driver was negligent and too inexperienced to be driving the truck, which was responding to an emergency call.

The family of one of three people killed in December when a Kansas City firetruck collided with a car in Westport is suing the fire department, the city and the driver of the truck.

The lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by the parents of Michael Elwood, alleges that the driver was negligent and too inexperienced to be driving the truck, which was responding to an emergency call.

Elwood was a passenger in the car, a 2004 Honda CRV, which was driven by Jennifer San Nicolas, who was also killed. The accident took place at 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 near the intersection of Westport Road and Broadway Boulevard.

The force of the collision sent the CRV and the firetruck barreling to the northwest, where they struck and killed pedestrian Tami Knight before the vehicles slammed into a brick building at 4048 Broadway. The building, which once housed the Riot Room, a popular music venue, partially collapsed.

Both Elwood, 25, and San Nicolas, 41, worked at Ragazza Food & Wine on 43rd and Main streets. Knight, 41, was a research analyst with Kansas City Public Schools. She was found under the building’s rubble.

The firetruck, KCFD Pumper 19, had been sent out on a fire call but was told to “stand down” not long before the accident.

The six-page wrongful death lawsuit brought by Russell and Barbara Elwood says that San Nicolas was heading westbound on Westport Road and had a green light when the firetruck hit the driver’s side of the vehicle.

The CRV then became attached to the front of the fire truck, according to the lawsuit, as the truck struck two more vehicles, a streetlight, a small tree and bicycle rack before striking the building.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

The Elwoods are represented by attorney Tim Dollar, who declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The police department is continuing to investigate the accident and has yet to release its findings.

As a reporter covering breaking news and legal affairs, I want to demystify often-complex legal issues in order to expose the visible and invisible ways they affect people’s lives. I cover issues of justice and equity, and seek to ensure that significant and often under-covered developments get the attention they deserve so that KCUR listeners and readers are equipped with the knowledge they need to act as better informed citizens. Email me at dan@kcur.org.
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