Family, Dance Community Mourning Instructor Killed In Light Rail Crash

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — An accomplished ballroom dancer and instructor is dead after his vehicle collided with a light rail train over the weekend.

Metro Transit police say 29-year-old Nicholas Westlake died on Monday at Regions Hospital. The crash involving the car he was driving and the Metro Green line train happened at the intersection of Eustis Street and University Avenue just after 9 p.m. Saturday.

The passenger in that car was his dance partner and his girlfriend, Neli Petkova.  She broke her arm in the crash, but has since been released from the hospital.

Investigators don’t know yet what led up to the crash, but witnesses to that crash have reported to media outlets they think Westlake had the right of way with a green light.

Metro Transit police say the two were traveling southbound on Eustis when the crash happened. Investigators are now reconstructing the crash scene and making sure all of the lights were working properly.

They are also investigating if the 12-year-veteran train operator followed all of Metro Transit’s procedures and all traffic laws at the time. He is now on standard administrative leave.

This comes as co-workers and friends mourn the loss of Westlake, who was a dancing partner with Petkova.  Alongside each other, the two continuously earned high rankings in national competitions.

Those at the Dancers Studio in St. Paul, where Westlake worked as an instructor, tell us they are heartbroken over the loss.

In a statement, the studio says the couple was “Magic together on the dance floor.”

They go on to say that “His fire, his light and his smile will be missed by his family, friends and students from across the globe.”

A celebration of life will be held at the Dancers Studio Friday night in honor of Nicolas. Organizers also say the studio will stay open as a place for both dance and healing.

More from Mary McGuire
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