MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities dancer died when a light rail operator ran the train into his car in 2017. His death inspired a new law that’s about to take effect.

Nic Westlake, 29, died in July 2017. Video of the crash showed the train operator ignored the stop signal. The LRT operator could not be charged then because there was a lack of evidence for gross negligence, and because careless driving laws didn’t apply to trains.

“It was hard to watch more than one time,” Seth Westlake, Nic’s brother, said of the video. “It was quite gut-wrenching.”

The Westlake family wanted train operators to be held accountable. Seth and his brother spoke at hearings to lobby for a new LRT law that would allow operators to be subject to the state’s reckless and careless driving law. Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill in April.

“It does feel good to know we made a difference and it’s a small part of what we’d like to affect,” Seth said.

Metro Transit says the bill will not change expectations of its operators.

“We fully expect all of our operators whether they be train operators or bus operators, we expect them to obey all traffic laws,” Metro Transit spokesperson Howie Padilla said. “That hasn’t changed at all.”

The law goes into effect on Thursday, Aug. 1.

Kate Raddatz

Comments