ST. LOUIS — A 17-year-old was hit by two vehicles and killed Friday evening while crossing the street near Ted Drewes in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood.
The boy was identified Saturday by police as Matthew Nikolai, of the 5500 block of Daggett Avenue on the Hill. He was taken to a hospital just after 8:15 pm, where he was pronounced dead.
Police said Matthew was crossing Chippewa Street, walking toward Ted Drewes, when he was struck by a pickup going west. He then tumbled into an eastbound lane, where he was hit by a 2014 Ford Fusion driven by an 18-year-old woman.
The driver of the pickup continued heading west after the crash and has not been identified by police. The 18-year-old stopped and is cooperating with the investigation, police said. A stretch of the street was closed east of Jamieson Avenue for several hours as evidence was collected.
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Matthew was a rising senior at Christian Brothers College High School, according to a tweet from the school. He was a member of the robotics team, the computer science honors academy and the school’s choral group. His brother is also a student at the all-boys Catholic school in Town and Country, and his father, uncle and grandfather are graduates.
“As our community grieves together, our prayers, support, and love are with his family and close friends,” the tweet said.
It is with heavy hearts that we share with our CBC High School community the news of the tragic loss of rising senior Matthew Nikolai.
As our community grieves together, our prayers, support, and love are with his family and close friends during this most challenging time.
— CBC High School (@CBCHighSchool) July 30, 2022
Matthew is the second death near the iconic frozen custard stand since May, when a 75-year-old man was struck by a car and killed.
Allyson Putz of Webster Groves took her 8-year-old son to meet friends for dessert on Friday. They were exiting the gift shop next door when she saw Matthew get hit.
“I heard a commotion and as soon as I saw what happened, I shielded my son and got him around the corner,” Putz said. Her friend called 911 as passersby tried to revive Matthew in the street.
Putz said that her son was under and she was infuriated that the city hasn’t done anything to make the area safer for pedestrians.
“I’m familiar enough to know how dangerous it is,” said Putz, who either parks in the lot or on residential streets behind the custard stand to avoid crossing Chippewa. “But people from out of town don’t know.”
Ted Drewes owner Travis Dillon said on Saturday that he was not at the stand on Friday night but was “very concerned.” He said he had spoken in the past to city officials about how to make the area safer but wasn’t sure what could be done.
The location on the historic Route 66 opened in 1941 and more than doubled its capacity in 1985. There are metal barriers and security officers out front, but summer crowds overflow the small lot; many customers park at businesses across the five-lane street. The speed limit is listed at 35 mph on Chippewa at River Des Peres, near the St. Louis County divide, but there are no speed limit signs near the frozen custard stand.
Dillon said there had never been any incidents until this year. He said distracted driving could be to blame.
Alderman Tom Oldenburg, who represents the 16th Ward, on Saturday said that he had scheduled a meeting for Monday with the traffic commissioner to discuss both short- and long-term solutions. He wants more of a police presence on busy nights and plans to extend a traffic study already in the works to include Chippewa between Hampton and Jamieson avenues.
A previous study that led in a “lane diet” on Hampton has led to a decrease in crashes, he said.
“Public safety and traffic safety are always important,” said Oldenburg. “My heart goes out to the family. It’s gut wrenching.”
CBC announced it will have its chapel open Sunday from 3 to 5 pm for anyone who wants to gather and will hold a formal prayer service for Matthew’s class at a later date.
It is the second notable death this month for the CBC community. Damion Baker, a star player on the 2014 championship football team, was killed in a shooting July 3.