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NTSB Releases Preliminary Report Of Ellicott City Train Derailment; Cause Yet Undetermined

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ)— Federal investigators issue a preliminary report into last month’s Ellicott City train derailment.

Alex DeMetrick reports, there are some answers but not for the big questions.

When the CSX train derailed two weeks ago, more than coal spilled. Two college students– Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr– who were on the railroad bridge during the derailment were buried alive in coal and died on August 20.

The report concludes that neither weather nor speed played a factor in the accident that claimed the lives of two college students, Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr, on August 20.

The result was shock and a common question.

“It’ll be interesting to see what was the cause,” Kris Baker, an Ellicott City resident, said.

With repairs still underway in Ellicott City to the track bed and the retaining wall of the bridge, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has some early answers.

The preliminary findings are a checklist of proven facts.

Among them: Weather was not a factor. Neither was speed. The train’s recorder showed the train was traveling at 25 miles per hour in a stretch designated as a 25 mile per hour zone. The lead 21 cars derailed in the accident, six of those falling to a parking lot below.

CSX says the incident caused $2.2 million in damage.

911 Caller: “I heard it happen. Pretty much happened right in front of me.”

But no one apparently saw how it happened. Not those close by.

“It sounded like guns going off,” Benjamin Noppenberger, a resident of Ellicott City, said.

“It was like screeching, like it was stopping,” said another resident.

Not even the train’s crew know how it happened:

“All their statements indicate that they felt nothing and they saw nothing before emergency braking occured in their train,” Jim Southworth of the NTSB said.

NTSB investigators have also reviewed and documented equipment, including signals, train cars and engines. But analyzing the data and coming up with a cause for the wreck will take at least a year.

Much of the analytical work into the train derailment will take place at NTSB’s materials laboratory.

To read the entire preliminary report, click here.

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