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KCFD firetruck driver pleads guilty to manslaughter for killing 3 people in Westport crash

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 Dec. 15 after a Kansas City Fire Truck collided with an SUV and crashed into the Riot Room while a pedestrian was walking nearby.

Three people were killed in December 2021 when Kansas City firefighter Dominic Biscari sped through a red light at Westport Road and Broadway and crashed into an SUV, two pedestrians and a building. Biscari will avoid prison as part of a plea deal, but the Kansas City Fire Department said it will seek his termination.

Kansas City firefighter Dominic Biscari has pleaded guilty to three charges of second-degree involuntary manslaughter as the result of a deadly crash in Westportin December 2021.

Biscari will avoid prison for now as part of a plea deal with the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office. Instead, he will be placed on supervised probation for three years, banned from carrying or owning firearms, barred from contacting the victims' families, and must complete 40 hours of community service.

On Tuesday, Kansas City Fire Chief Ross Grundyson said that Biscari has been suspended without pay pending an internal investigation, and will face firing.

“The City will seek Dominic Biscari’s termination from the Kansas City Fire Department," Grundyson said in an emailed statement.

A lawyer for Biscari called him a "fine young man who made a mistake in judgment" and said they will fight against the decision to fire him.

“Dominic will do everything he can to retain his position on the fire department," said attorney Kevin Regan in a statement. "His team is prepared to vigorously fight to help him keep what the City has wrongly taken from him. We are disappointed by the City’s arbitrary decision and believe it will be overturned.”

According to charging documents filed by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, Biscari was driving a fire truck through a red light at Westport Road and Broadway on his way to an injury crash when he struck a 2004 Honda CRV.

The passengers, Jennifer San Nicolas and Michael Elwood, died in the collision, which sent both the CRV and fire truck barreling to the northwest. The vehicles hit and killed pedestrian Tami Knight and injured her boyfriend Alexander Llera, before slamming into a brick building at 4048 Broadway.

Court records say Biscari drove the firetruck about 51 mph — 16 miles over the speed limit of 35 mph.

"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," said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker in a statement. "We also hope this motivates further review of the best and the safest practices for operating public vehicles. Our community requires more care."

Last month, Kansas Citypaid $1.4 million to the families of the people killed in the crash.

Biscari was originally ordered by an arbitrator topay $32 million to the victims — which included $9 million to Elwood’s parents, $11 million to Knight’s mother, $9 million to San Nicolas’ mother and $2 million to Llera. That judgment also included $1.4 million to the company that owns the destroyed Riot Room building. But because Biscari was not able to pay those awards himself, the responsibility fell to the city.

The arbitrator found that Biscari "made blatantly false statements" to police investigators when he described what happened as he was responding to a fire call on Dec. 15, 2021 and crashed.

Contrary to Biscari's statement, evidence including traffic cameras and eyewitness testimony revealed that Biscari did not slow down as he approached the intersection of Westport Road and Broadway Boulevard.

"The City has known for years that Broadway and Westport presents a dangerous intersection," Biscari's lawyers responded in a statement.

In November, Kansas City Council approved the transfer of $1.8 million from its general fund to help pay for lawsuits.

Another suit brought against Kansas City by the victims’ families, the owners of the damaged building and Llera is still ongoing.

Updated: February 22, 2023 at 8:27 PM CST
This story has been updated with comments from Dominic Biscari's lawyers.
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