ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ)— Train tragedy. Two teenagers were killed as a CSX train derailed in the middle of downtown Ellicott City.
Meghan McCorkell has the latest on the tragedy and the intensive investigation underway.
The NTSB has nine investigators working on the scene. Some will be working throughout the night to determine how this train went off the tracks.
The derailment killed two 19-year-old college students Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr, who investigators confirm were sitting on the railroad bridge with their backs to the side of the train as it passed a few feet behind them. The last moments of their lives were documented on Twitter.
Twenty-one train cars went off the tracks, spilling down coal to downtown Ellicott City.
“It’s quite a sight to see something that big roll over and sit on its side,” said Ron Dupkanis.
Investigators say the conductor and two engineers didn’t hear anything and didn’t see anything until an automatic emergency brake activated, indicating a derailment. They didn’t see Mayr and Nass, both 19. The teens were on the railroad bridge but not on the tracks. Their bodies were found buried underneath the coal.
“It’s unspeakable and I saw both of their families who were down here. I have two young daughters at home. You just can’t put it into words,” said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.
The coal leveled cars in a nearby parking lot. Federal investigators are now on the scene, searching for the cause of the derailment.
“We’ll look into the maintenance of the tracks, the maintenance of the equipment, the maintenance of the locomotive–everything you can think of,” said Jim Southworth, NTSB Investigator
The NTSB has recovered the event recorders and the video camera from the front of that train. The evidence will be analyzed at their headquarters in D.C.
“Again, these accidents happen very quickly. A matter of seconds sometimes,” said Southworth.
But the cleanup is a lengthy process.
“It’s a big mess and these are some hardworking men and women who are working very hard to get all this out of here,” said Dupkanis.
While county officials hope to reopen some of the area Wednesday, federal investigators warn the road could be shut down for several days.
Investigators say the conductor did not try to stop the train. The crew only knew something was wrong when an automatic emergency brake went off.
Interview With Howard Co. Executive Ken Ulman:
The tracks are easily accessible and there are several businesses, shops and bars in the area.
“I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr who lost their lives in that accident. Within an hour of the incident, I was on the ground to witness the swift and coordinated response efforts of our public safety personnel – from both Howard and Baltimore counties – as well as CSX and the National Transportation Safety Board. I want to thank our local and federal partners for their support as the investigation continues, and ask that the community continues to keep the Nass and Mayr families and friends in our thoughts and prayers,” Ulman said.
“I was saddened to hear about the CSX train derailment in Ellicott City, late last night. My sympathies and prayers go out to the families that lost loved ones in this horrible accident,” Congressman Elijah Cummings said in a statement.
“Public safety is my utmost priority. I am confident that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will conduct a thorough investigation. As the investigation unfolds, I hope that the details reveal an uncompromised commitment by CSX to following all safety requirements and standards in their train operations, and that we can identify ways to prevent future tragedies such as this.”
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