Nic Westlake

The Twin Cities have lost a generous volunteer, a beautiful dancer, and a brilliant programmer. It is a terrifying thought that another shining light in our community could be extinguished at any moment by an operator mistake. We deeply hope our loss can spur the action necessary to prevent this from ever happening again.

A Deadly Mistake

On July 15, 2017, a Metropolitan Council/Metro Transit driver negligently drove through a stop signal killing Nic and severely injuring his companion, Neli Petkova. We desperately miss Nic and his comfort and support for our Family and our friends and neighbors in the community.

A Real Problem

When Nic was killed, Minnesota Law stated that the Light Rail were excluded from the traffic code, allowing Light Rail Operators to make deadly mistakes without punishment or consequences. Because of this loophole, the driver of the train that killed Nic faced no criminal penalties and continued to work for Metro Transit for several years. Drivers responsible for 300,000 lb vehicles on the streets that you drove this afternoon must respect the traffic laws, and must face consequences when they do not.

A First Step

Governor Walz signed SF1339/HF1568 into law on April 4, 2019. Minnesota and the Light Rail will be safer because of Nic.

Thank you so much to the courageous authors of our bill Senator Carla Nelson and Representative Cheryl Youakim. We deeply appreciate your wise and persistent efforts to fix this hole in our laws. Light Rail Vehicles will now be included in the Careless and Reckless driving statues. It means so much to our family to know that we can help prevent this from ever happening again.

Nic loved Minnesota and he loved the Light Rail. He would be so proud to be a part of making both safer.

A Safer Minnesota

We are excited to see the Light Rail become Safer. We are proud of the Light Rail and deeply committed to making it a safe and productive part of the community. We hope to work directly with the Met Council to implement these simple and effective changes:

  • Introduce cameras to the Driver’s cabin
  • Improve visibility and consistency of rail operator signals
  • Introduce consistent and identifiable paint schemes on the ends of cars to improve visibility
  • Add automatic braking mechanisms to prevent operator error at a stop signal or other collisions

We hope the Met Council can see the value in simple safety upgrades like this and implement them without hesitation. If change cannot be made, we look forward to continuing making improvements through legislative action.

Thank you to Sheer Dance, Star Tribune, and for reminding Minnesota of these safety concerns and what can be done to operate the Light Rail safely.