Nicholas Redlin Westlake, a 29-year-old Saint Paul man, was fatally injured on Saturday when his car was hit by a Metro Green Line light rail train at the intersection of Eustis Street and University Avenue. Metro Transit, which operates the light rail system in St. Paul and Minneapolis, announced his tragic passing in a press release yesterday.
According to Metro Transit, Mr. Westlake was driving a car southbound on Eustis Street when it was hit by a westbound light rail train. Because the impact crushed the driver’s side of the car, Saint Paul firefighters had to extract Mr. Westlake from the vehicle. He was transported to Regions Hospital, but died of his injuries on Monday, July 17, 2017. His passenger, Neli Petkova, was able to get out of the vehicle on her own. She was transported to Regions, treated and released.
Witnesses believe Mr. Westlake was crossing the tracks on a green light, and therefore, had the right of way, according to news reports.
Metro Transit is investigating the crash; however, since Metro Transit would be legally responsible if its driver was at fault, an independent investigation by an attorney and that attorney’s team of forensic experts is important.
At this time, the Metro Transit Police Department’s crash reconstruction team is investigating. The agency has stated that these investigators are looking into whether the light rail train ran a red light. They are also looking at whether the lights were working properly. If not, this would implicate the maker of the lights and/or the entity (company or city) that maintained the lights. As part of the investigation, they are interviewing witnesses and reviewing video recordings.
Investigators are also looking at whether the train operator “followed all Metro Transit’s standard operating procedures and all traffic laws as he crossed into the intersection,” according to Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington. At the end of their investigation, they “will present the case to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office to determine what, if any, charges need to be pursued.”
“Families that I have represented want to know the truth,” said Eric. “In most cases, that requires an independent investigation, including vehicle inspections, evidence gathering at the scene, interviews with the implicated driver and witnesses, and an analysis of relevant company documents.”