Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill Friday to close a hole in state law that local prosecutors say prevented them from charging a light-rail train operator in a fatal collision.
The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, was sparked by the July 2017 death of 29-year-old Nicholas Westlake. Westlake was killed when a Green Line operator ran a red light and struck his car as he crossed an intersection. The operator was demoted, but prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to prove gross negligence and that they were unable to file careless driving charges because trains were not seen as vehicles under the law.
Peter Westlake said that while nothing can bring his brother back, he feels “small comfort, to know something good will come of his passing.”
“He loved the light rail … and he would be so proud to know that he was part of making it safer in this community that he loved,” said Westlake, who traveled from Ohio to attend the ceremony.
Blizzard conditions prevented Nicholas’ parents and other members of the family from making it to St. Paul. Lawmakers called to share the news.
“I wish I had words and I wish this bill signing would bring back your beautiful boy,” Walz told the parents. “But I’m always in awe of people who turn these tragedies into something positive for others and this case today is that embodied.”