ST. PAUL, Minn. - A beloved dancer has died of injuries suffered after a crash involving a light rail train.
Nicholas Westlake's car was hit just after 9 p.m. Saturday near University and Highway 280 on the Green Line in St. Paul. Westlake was driving while his girlfriend and dance partner, Neli Petkova, was in the passenger seat. Firefighters had to pull Westlake, 29, from the wreckage. On Monday, he died of his injuries.
“We are saddened by Nicholas’ death,” said Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington in a news release. “This is news that we never want to have to give because it means that a life was cut short. It means that there are families, friends and loved ones who are grieving that loss.”
Westlake was an international ballroom dancing champion and instructor at Dancers Studio in St. Paul.
"Nic was generous with not only his talent but also his time, as he spent countless hours working with local dance programs and volunteering with organizations that promote ballroom dance in the Twin Cities," a statement reads on the studio's website. "His fire, his light, and his smile will be missed by his family, friends, and students from across the globe."
According to the website, a memorial for Westlake will be held Friday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The Westlake family requests that donations be made in memory of Nic to U Partner Dance, a non-profit organization dedicated to investing in the future of ballroom dance in the Upper Midwest and across the country.
Petkova was treated and released from an area hospital.
Metro Transit Police Department’s crash reconstruction team is investigating to determine who had the right of way, if all lights were working and if the train operator followed all traffic laws and operating procedures. Once the investigation is complete, Metro Transit Police say they will forward the findings to the Ramsey County Attorney's Office for possible charges.
The train operator, a 12-year Metro Transit employee, is on standard administrative leave.