By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nic Westlake really did dance his way through life.

“It was his life,” friend Cody Arndtson said. “It was his passion and [the studio] was where he wanted to be every second of every day.”

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Westlake was both a competitive ballroom dancer and a dance instructor at the Dancers Studio in St. Paul. He earned high rankings in National Championships alongside his partner on the floor and in life, Neli Petkova.

“If you were to watch any video of their performance it was sheer magic,” Kelly Kearney, who knew both Westlake and Petkova, said.

The two would have their final moments together Saturday night. As they drove through the intersection of Eustis Street and University Avenue in St. Paul, a light rail train struck their car. Westlake, the driver, died at the hospital a few days later.

“We will miss him terribly but he was wonderful and he meant a lot to us,” student Marianne Simons said.

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Petkova was able to get out of the car after the accident and was transported to Regions Hospital where she was treated and released.

While friends and fans of the dancing duo won’t see any new performances, they will always have the memories. They plan to remember Westlake in a celebration of life at the Dancers Studio Friday night from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Train operator Abdellatif El Maarouf, a 12-year Metro Transit employee, is on leave following the crash. Witnesses thought Westlake had the right of way.

The crash is still under investigation.

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Westlake’s family is raising money for a nonprofit that helps ballroom dancers that you can donate to here.

Kate Raddatz