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Ellicott City train derailment kills Elizabeth Nass, Rose Mayr

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Ellicott City train derailment kills two (PHOTOS)

Ellicott City train derailment kills two (PHOTOS) 14 Photos
Ellicott City train derailment kills two (PHOTOS)
21 of the 80 train cars came off the tracks. (Photo: Brianne Carter)

Investigators probing a deadly train derailment in downtown Ellicott City have begun watching videos and studying track conditions as they trying to figure out if two young women killed while hanging out on the tracks had played any role in the crash - or if their presence was just a tragic coincidence.

The train was going the authorized speed of 25 miles per hour with an engineer-in-training at the controls before the accident that killed two young women, a federal investigator said Wednesday.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jim Southworth wouldn't speculate on the cause of the derailment.

"This is just not the time for any kind of analysis," he said Wednesday. "This is purely fact-finding."

The NTSB says an engineer in training was part of the three man crew on board and was at the controls at the time of the crash.

The 80-car train carrying coal derailed in the 8000 block of Frederick Road around 12 a.m. Tuesday.

So far, investigators have determined the train's emergency brakes were applied automatically - not by the three-man crew - but they don't know why the train jumped the tracks.

By Wednesday, 18 of the 21 derailed cars have been removed while other cars have been inspected. But mountains of coal remain on the scene.

Later Wednesday, investigators will be interviewing the conductor and his entire crew. Investigators confirm there was a break in the air line causing the emergency breaks to kick on.

Mourning classmates

Students at Mount Hebron High School clung tightly to one another Tuesday night, attempting to fill the hole left by the loss of former classmates Rose Mayr and Elizabeth Nass.

Mayr, 19, was a student at the University of Delaware. Nass, also 19, attended James Madison University in Virginia. "Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign with @r0se_petals," wrote Nass, using her friend's Twitter name.

Nass and Mayr were close friends from high school who kept in touch and hung out during the summer.

Their principal from Mount Hebron in Ellicott City remembered the two fondly.

"It's devastating. They were wonderful students, great girls, great families that were involved,” principal Scott Ruehl says.

Howard County police said the two victims were buried under coal as it dumped out of the trains.

Funeral services for Nass were planned for Friday at the Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City. Funeral services for Mayr were planned for Saturday at Bethany United Methodist Church in Ellicott City.

Immediately after the incident

CSX Spokesperson Bob Sullivan says the train was traveling from Grafton, W.Va. to Baltimore and consisted of two locomotives and 80 cars.

Ulman says first responders found 21 of the 80 train cars derailed or overturned. He says some of them flipped over and fell from a bridge, located about 20 feet off the ground, which crosses Frederick Road, and crushed parked vehicles in a parking lot below.

Young people often party in the nearby parking lot and often hang out on the tracks, despite fences around the area. "It's just sort of a magnet for teenage high jinks," said Shelly Wygant of the Howard County Historical Society.

Ulman says the three CSX employees on the train were in the locomotive and all are OK.

Laurie Ward lives on main street and heard the horrifying sounds of the train as its cars popped off the tracks.

“It was a screeching and it didn't sound normal and I thought it sounds like its derailing,” Ward says.

ABC7's Brianne Carter reports crews are working to extract possible other victims from the wreckage. It's unclear what caused the crash.

"It is tragic that we've lost two young women in the train derailment early this morning in Ellicott City. I've spoken with County Executive Ulman, and the State will continue to support our first responders and local partners in Howard County," said Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley in a statement.

CSX is assisting local officials in what is expected to be a days-long investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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