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Loophole in state law exempting LRT operators from traffic violations closed by state lawmakers

April 08, 2019 11:18 PM

After 29-year-old Nic Westlake was killed when his car was struck by a light rail train in St. Paul in 2017, a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation found light rail operators were exempt from state traffic laws.

The light rail operator, in Westlake's collision blew through a stop sign at the intersection of University Avenue and Eustis Street, but KSTP discovered the operator could not be charged with violating any traffic laws because he was exempt under current statutes.

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Westlake's family pushed lawmakers to change the law, and last week the Minnesota Senate voted unanimously to do just that. The House overwhelmingly approved the same bill Monday.

Westlake's mother, Lisa Westlake, sat patiently with the rest of Nic's family in the House gallery awaiting a final vote after a couple hours of testimony from the floor.


More from KSTP: 

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

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


"We are just really happy that there is some closure to this," she said. "Nic would have loved this and we are grateful that the light rail and the streets will be safer for everyone who use them."

"It is not ideal that we had to do it this way, but at least something good came out of Nic's death," said Westlake.

Westlake's girlfriend, Neli Petkova, was seriously injured in the crash. She told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in January she was disheartened by existing state laws which allowed the light rail operator to avoid criminal traffic charges.

"It just does not seem right that you can go right back to work, back to your life and enjoy the sun and family and we only have memories of Nic now," said Petkova.

Gov. Tim Walz is expected to sign the new bill into law. It would then take affect in August.

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Jay Kolls

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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