Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr killed: College students struck by freight in Ellicott City after tweeting pictures from bridge
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Two 19-year-old college students were killed by a train after they were allegedly hanging out and drinking on the tracks, causing it to derail and bury them under tons of coal.
Howard County police identified the victims as Elizabeth Conway Nass and Rose Louese Mayr of Ellicott City, Maryland.
Nass was a student at James Madison University in Virginia and Mayr was a student at the University of Delaware, police said.
The women had both posted photos and updates to their Twitter pages, one of their feet hanging off the bridge in Ellicott City, about 13 miles west of Baltimore, and another, which read: ‘Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign.’
Good friends: Rose, right, pictured with an unidentified friend, left, was a college student
Inspecting: Officials look at part of the CSX freight train that derailed alongside a parking lot overnight in Ellicott City
Earlier, Nass had tweeted: ‘Once before I leave you for school… you, me, a handle of burnett’s, and some form of public transportation.’
Burnett's produces a variety of liquors, including vodka and gin.
Another photo Mayr posted showed what appeared to be two women's legs dangling from a bridge. 'Levitating,' Mayr wrote.
Ellicott City is a picturesque small town where there are several bars, and gift and antique shops in converted old buildings. The railroad runs across Main Street in Ellicott City, about 13 miles west of Baltimore.
A person who answered the telephone at Nass' home declined to comment as did a family member who answered the phone at a number listed for the Mayr family.
Two train operators were not harmed. Officials had to use cranes to remove some of the railroad cars.
'Many of those train cars fell onto automobiles, literally fell onto automobiles with the coal,' Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said. 'So you have massive piles of coal and heavy train cars on top of automobiles.'
Last tweet: Mayr's last tweet was this picture looking down from the bridge down on Ellicott City
Residents checked to see if their cars or friends' vehicles had been damaged on Tuesday morning.
Several grey CSX train cars were still on the bridge while others could be seen derailed farther down the rail line. A number of cars were in a wooded area of the train track that runs along the Patapsco River.
Benjamin Noppenberger lives downtown and said he was getting ready for bed when he heard the derailment. He and his wife thought it sounded like gunshots and waited about 10 minutes to go outside. 'We could see all the cars that fell over. I just saw catastrophe,' he said.
Jill Farrell, a 35-year-old assistant professor who lives across the street from the tracks, said she heard what sounded liked squealing brakes and then a huge crash.
Massive damage: Coal that spilled from the derailed freight train, bottom, partially covers cars in the parking lot below
Long day: Workers begin to clean up the wreckage; the train derailed while crossing an overpass west of Baltimore, killing the two 19-year-old women and crushing several cars parked near the bridge
'It actually sounded like trains went off the tracks, and then silence,' she said.
The tracks follow the route of the nation's first commercial railroad between Baltimore and Ellicott City, completed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1830.
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.
Jim Southworth, investigator in charge for the NTSB, declined to speculate on a possible cause. He said the train was going about 25 miles per hour and was equipped with video recording devices that investigators will review to help them determine what happened.
Southworth said the train had two locomotives, was 3,000-feet-long and weighed 9,000 tons.
About 100 pounds of coal spilled into a tributary of the Patapsco River, a major Maryland waterway that parallels the tracks, said Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman Jay Apperson.
He said much more coal lay along the edge of the tributary, raising concerns it could boost the acidity of the water or threaten aquatic life.