ST. LOUIS — St. Louis police are asking for the public's help to find a driver who caused a deadly hit-and-run.
17-year-old Matthew Nikolai was walking to Ted Drewes on Chippewa Street, when he was hit and killed. This happened on a busy Friday night around 8:15, as crowds flocked to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.
Police say Nikolai was leaving the parking lot of Enterprise Bank and Trust and was heading to the ice cream shop when a truck struck him. That's when he fell into the eastbound lane and another car hit him.
Nikolai died at the hospital.
The first driver took off from the scene, while the other stayed and cooperated.
Jessica Langley was visiting St. Louis with her family when she saw the accident happen.
"The only thing I’d want to say is the citizens when this horrific accident occurred were amazing. 911 never answered and had to call us back, the police took forever to arrive and apparently a private EMS was the only one available to come," Langley said. "It felt like forever to get emergency responders there. But in that time, citizens were administering CPR (and kept his pulse), they did their best to clear the road way, and were directing traffic. It was truly remarkable watching all these people work together."
As police search for the runaway suspect, advocates want more answers, too.
The nonprofit group Trailnet addresses key problems when it comes to dangerous driving, inequitable access to core transportation, and unequal funding for walking, biking, and transit.
In their yearly crash report, it broke down 2021 numbers
- 178 people were killed
- More than 14,000 people injured in traffic crashes in St. Louis City and County
For the fourth year in a row, the number of people walking killed in crashes increased in St. Louis City.
For the first time since data was tracked, St. Louis County saw the total number of traffic deaths exceed 100.
Looking at the intersection of Chippewa and Jameison Avenue since 2017, four of the five crashes involving pedestrians within this section were in front of Ted Drewes.
Just in May, a 77-year-old man was also struck and killed out front.
Sam McCrory is the Planning Coordinator for Trailnet and says it's a high pedestrian area and the infrastructure should reflect that.
Michael Carmody is a part of Safer Streets for Kirkwood and St. Louis County.
Their regional efforts work to stop these type of crashes from happening.
"There are solutions to this. About 50% of the crashes across from Ted Drewes could be reduced by putting in a well lit, rapid flashing beacon continental marked cross walk," Carmody shares.
This road is operated by MoDOT and Carmody believes the agency should do more.
"I'm shocked that they still continue to ignore it," he adds.
He explains the Federal Highway Association has a safety enhancement program called STEP, Safety Transportation for Every Person, and he believes MoDOT has this tool to use.
MoDOT shared this statement:
MoDOT’s responsibilities on Chippewa are limited to maintaining the driving surface.
When 5 On Your Side asked if the responsibility for traffic calming measures rely on the city, the spokesperson said that was correct.
"I will also have a discussions with our public safety officials about what's going on at Ted Drewes," St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said.
Trailnet believes if multiple groups work together, more can be done.
"I think you're going to have the most effective solutions when you collaborate," CEO Cindy Mense said.
Trailnet is asking the city to use ARPA funds for a comprehensive approach to add more safety measures.
"We can't control all reckless drivers, but we sure can make it hard for them to hit pedestrians by putting in the type of infrastructure that will keep them separated," she adds.
Alderman Tom Oldenburg also shared this tweet:
On Monday, 5 On Your Side reached out to Oldenburg but never heard back.
Reporter Mercedes McKay learned from a business owner that Oldenburg met on Monday with various department heads of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and spoke to Ted Drewes twice over the weekend to be involved in short and long term solutions.
Detectives are asking for the public's help in identifying the hit-and-run suspect.
If you have any information about the hit and run, you can contact Crime Stoppers at 866-371-TIPS.