Firefighter enters guilty plea for 3 counts of involuntary manslaughter following 2021 Westport crash
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A firefighter who was driving a pumper truck during a crash in Westport that killed three people in December of 2021 pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree involuntary manslaughter Tuesday.
Dominic Biscari, 22, received three years of supervised probation. He cannot have a firearm or have contact with the victims’ families outside of court proceedings. Biscari is also required to complete 40 hours of community service.
A judge accepted an Alford plea during his hearing Tuesday. An Alford plea is a guilty plea when a defendant maintains their innocence but believes the prosecution’s evidence against them would likely result in a guilty verdict.
On Dec. 15, 2021, Biscari was driving Pumper 19 toward a house fire. According to crash data and video surveillance, Biscari was driving over 51 mph in a 35 mph zone and ran a red light. An accident investigator found Biscari entered an intersection with a limited view of cross traffic, through a red light, at a speed that was too fast for the conditions he faced.
Tami Knight was a pedestrian who was hit and killed. She was an adventurer who climbed mountains and skydived. Her boyfriend saw her get hit and tried to rescue her from the rubble.
The driver of a SUV that was struck, Jennifer San Nicolas, was an animal lover who worked with her passenger Michael Elwood at a local restaurant.
Elwood was just three hours from getting his degree from the Art Institute at the time of the crash. His family released a statement today that said, in part: “We fully support this agreement and believe it strikes the proper balance in obtaining justice for all concerned. Our thoughts and prayers continue for all involved. We look forward to continuing our efforts in the civil cases to bring about meaningful safety changes within the fire department to reduce the likelihood of future tragedies.”
Biscari’s attorney Kevin Regan released a three-page statement that said Dominic Biscari and his family express their most profound love, concern and remorse to the families of the victims.
Regan’s statement said: “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. The City has the technology to install Opticom receivers at traffic light intersections. The firetrucks already have transponders to send signals to the receivers.”
Kansas City Fire Department Chief Ross Grundyson said the city will seek Biscari’s termination from the Kansas City Fire Department. Biscari is suspended without pay pending an internal investigation.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker issued a statement that said: “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.”
A judge previously approved a civil settlement awarding each family a total close to $540,000. It represents the maximum amount allowed under state law for the city’s responsibility, which is around $460,000. The remaining $80,000 comes from Farmers Insurance, which is Biscari’s private auto insurance.
The families continue another lawsuit against the city of Kansas City, Missouri, which involves a breach of contract claim.
Below is the full statement from the Elwood family:
“The Elwood family has been advised of the plea agreement reached today between the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office and firefighter Dominic Biscari arising out of the tragic motor vehicle crash in Westport that took the lives of three individuals including our beloved son and brother Michael Elwood. We wish to express our deep appreciation to jean peters baker and her staff for their thoughtful consideration of the facts of this case and the result obtained. We fully support this agreement and believe it strikes the proper balance in obtaining justice for all concerned. Our thoughts and prayers continue for all involved. We look forward to continuing our efforts in the civil cases to bring about meaningful safety changes within the fire department to reduce the likelihood of future tragedies.”
Below is the full statement from Biscari’s attorney:
Every night, while the City sleeps, these brave men and women dash to their firetrucks and risk their lives to save our lives, our homes, and our property.
When the alarm bell rings, they fearlessly answer the call to duty.
Sadly, the City has failed to answer the bell for its firefighters. It provides unsafe intersections, inefficient radio communication, outdated stoplight technology, and meaningless legal representation for these brave public servants.
The City’s actions toward Dominic are without Due Process and lack just cause, and they know it.
The City is not taking care of its citizens.
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