Family of man killed in 2017 light rail crash testifies at State Capitol

February 27, 2019 10:16 PM

The family of a man killed in a light rail crash in 2017 testified Wednesday before a Senate committee at the State Capitol.

Nic Westlake, 29, and his girlfriend, Neli Petkova, 26, were driving southbound on Eustis Street in St. Paul the evening of July 15, 2017 when a westbound light-rail train ran a red light along University Avenue and collided with their car.


RELATED: Family of man killed in light rail crash calls for changes to state law

Westlake, the driver, died as a result of injuries he suffered in the crash. Petkova, in the passenger's seat, suffered a compound fracture of her arm, as well as serious cuts and bruises.

A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation found the train driver could not face criminal charges for running the red light because light rail operators are excluded from traffic laws in Minnesota.

RELATED: Light rail operator found at fault for fatal crash, will not face charges

But on Wednesday, Westlake's brothers testified before lawmakers supporting a new bill that would remove that exclusion.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS checked with transit authorities in other states and cities to find out whether light rail operators are excluded from traffic laws like they are in Minnesota.  

The results can be found below.

"There should be consequences, especially when there's a terrible and tragic outcome" Peter Westlake said.  

"Remembering him and respecting his memory is being able to close up this loophole," Seth Westlake added. 

RELATED: Friends remember St. Paul ballroom dancer who died after crash with light rail train

Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, wrote the bill. 

"Hopefully some good can come out of this senseless tragedy," Nelson said. "I know it was very shocking to me. And I think it was probably shocking to all of Minnesotans to think (that) we have extensive light rail and yet our laws haven't quite kept up."

A memorial to Nic Westlake will be part of the U Dance Fest, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Union Depot in St. Paul. The Westlake memorial is planned for Saturday night.

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Joe Mazan

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