Friends Remember St. Paul Ballroom Dancer Who Died After Crash with Light Rail Train

July 20, 2017 11:09 PM

Friends of the man killed in a crash with a light rail train are remembering him.

Nicholas Westlake died after the vehicle he was driving was hit by a Green Line train at the intersection of Eustis Street and University Avenue Saturday night.
Westlake and his partner Neli Petkova earned worldwide attention for their skills on the dance floor.


"They continuously earned high rankings in national ballroom dance competitions," said Marcy McHenry, owner of Dancers Studio.

It's at the Dancers Studio in Saint Paul where since 2010 Westlake left a bigger impression.

"We took a few classes and he was wonderful. We've been here ever since because of Nick," Marianne Simons, one of Westlake's students, said.

At the Dancers Studio Thursday night, colleagues, students, and friends paid tribute to Westlake.

"He challenged us, in so many ways. I'll miss him terribly, but he was wonderful and he meant a lot to us," Simons said.

"What Nick has left for us is a community that supports each other, a dance community that is stronger because he was here," Cody Arndtson, Westlake's friend and colleague, said.

On Saturday night, Westlake and Petkova crashed into a light rail train. Petkova was injured but released from the hospital. Westlake died days later. Witnesses at the scene say Westlake had the right of way at a green light, but that's something investigators are still looking into.

"It's been difficult, he will be missed," another studentof Westlake said.

But those who knew him best say he gave it his all to inspire others.

"I think about the ways he brought people together," McHenry said.

While his students lost a teacher, they'll carry on the skills they learned from him forever.

"He loved to dance and his passion was contagious," Simons said. "That is something that is rare, but he had it and he gave it freely."

A celebration of life is scheduled for Friday night at the dance studio.


Brett Hoffland

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