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July 19, 2017

Saint Paul man dies after Saturday night collision with light rail train

A 29-year-old Saint Paul man has died after the vehicle he was driving was struck Saturday by a METRO Green Line train at the intersection of Eustis Street and University Avenue.

Nicholas Redlin Westlake’s car was struck just after 9 p.m. Saturday. He and a passenger, Neli Petkova, were traveling southbound on Eustis when a westbound light rail train collided with their car. Saint Paul firefighters extracted Westlake from the vehicle and transported him to Regions Hospital where he died Monday. Petkova was able to get out of the vehicle on her own and was transported to Regions where she was treated and released.

“We are saddened by Nicholas’ death,” said Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington. “This is news that we never want to have to give because it means that a life was cut short. It means that there are families, friends and loved ones who are grieving that loss.”

The Metro Transit Police Department’s crash reconstruction team is leading the investigation. Witnesses have reported to media outlets that they believed Westlake had the right of way with a green light. Investigators are looking into that possibility, as well as ensuring that all lights were operating as expected. Investigators also are examining whether the train operator followed all Metro Transit’s standard operating procedures and all traffic laws as he crossed into the intersection.

Investigators continue to talk with witnesses and review all available video to give the most complete recounting of the collision, Chief Harrington said.

“We will investigate this case with the utmost diligence, working to ensure that we have the most complete and accurate picture as this process goes forward,” he said. “Once we have gathered all the information, we will present the case to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office to determine what, if any, charges need to be pursued.”

As the process continues, the train operator, Abdellatif El Maarouf, a 12-year Metro Transit employee, remains on standard administrative leave.

“The hearts of everyone here at Metro Transit and the Metropolitan Council go out to Nicholas’s family and friends,” said Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb. “We grieve with them and offer our sincere condolences.”

 

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