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Investigation Begins in Ellicott City's Fatal Train Derailment

An Ellicott City train derailment killed two teens early Tuesday morning.

National officials leading the probe into why a , resulting in the death of two teens, said they are investigating what caused the incident.

“I can't speculate on that right now; it's day one," said Jim Southworth, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), during a press conference in downtown Ellicott City Tuesday.

When Patch asked whether the two teens' presence on the tracks caused the derailment, Southworth said: "I don’t know anything about that at this time. It’s another area that we’ll look into quite closely."

Elizabeth Conway Nass and Rose Mayr, both 19, of Ellicott City, died in the Tuesday 12:02 a.m. incident in which the train passed behind them on the Main Street bridge, cars tipped over and buried them in coal, according to police. 

They were . 

They were facing east toward Baltimore County with their backs to the train as it passed a few feet behind them, police said.

Investigators learned from preliminary investigation that an emergency brake automatically activated on the train, Southworth said.

Automatic activation of the emergency brake generally shows that there was a break in the airline on the train somewhere, said Southworth.

The three-member crew—an engineer, conductor and training engineer—on board the train said during interviews with NTSB investigators that they “felt nothing, they saw nothing,” said Southworth during the press conference.

NTSB is leading the investigation and will be cleaning up the crash site in downtown Ellicott City with partners from CSX, Howard County and the Federal Railroad Administration, said Southworth.

The on-site work would likely last through at least Wednesday, stated Southworth.

Teams are relocating the 59 train cars of the 80-car train that did not derail, said Southworth. Trucks were taking coal off the site below the Main Street bridge as well.

"These cars [were] full cars; a lot of them dumped ther loads," said Southworth.

The trains were carrying coal from West Virginia to Baltimore, according to a statement from CSX.

"We had to move the coal to get into some of the areas to look into the parking lot," said Southworth.

Six cars fell off the bridge into the county-owned parking lot below the railroad bridge, according to Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

In addition to many other factors, the nine-member NTSB group is evaluating witness statements and footage from the train, said Southworth.

Videos from the locomotive were taken from the train and are being transferred to a laboratory in Washington, D.C., where he said they would be evaluated.

Southworth repeatedly stated that it was the first day of investigation.

“I want to emphasize this is day one of the fact-gathering. These accidents happen very quickly, a matter of seconds sometimes,” said Southworth. “Investigations are quite lengthy. That’s on purpose….[NTSB is] investigating this accident to determine not just what happened but to determine why it happened...no stone unturned.”

NTSB, which works to improve public safety through research, is usually on the scene for a few days to one week, though the actual investigation lasts approximately one year, said NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss. His team includes rail experts, signal experts, track experts "and if we need to, we can call in the metallurgists," said Weiss.

The NTSB does not investigate every crash, except it is statutorily mandated to investigate all plane crashes.

"We selectively investigate accidents in other modes such as marine, rail and highway," said Weiss, "that are significant enough that we feel we could learn from them."

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Sean Tully August 22, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Very sad story. Great spot news coverage Elizabeth and Patch reporters.
number9dream August 22, 2012 at 04:33 PM
They need to put speed cameras on the railroads. Imagine the money Howard County could make off of CSX.
Elizabeth Janney (Editor) August 22, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Thanks, Sean. We offer our condolences to the families and loved ones of those involved.
Dave August 22, 2012 at 04:41 PM
haha This is just so wrong.... but I have to admit it's funny. (ps don't give them any ideas!)
Anonymous August 22, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Maybe those cameras should be right next to the signs that say "No Tresspassing Private Property". Debate all you want, 2 beautiful women with bright futures were taken before their time.
Elizabeth Janney (Editor) August 22, 2012 at 05:58 PM
During the press conference yesterday, the spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said that the train was going 25 mph and it was authorized to go 25 mph.
Elizabeth Janney (Editor) August 22, 2012 at 06:07 PM
It is illegal to be on private railroad tracks when you are not at an approved crossing, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, which states that 500 pedestrian deaths occur in the U.S. annually as a result of this crime. In Maryland, trespassing on railroad rights-of-way is a misdemeanor.
JP August 22, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Interesting... "Maryland train derailment delays terrorism trial at Guantanamo" http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/22/us/maryland-derailment-guantanamo-delay/index.html?hpt=hp_t3
Joe August 22, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Some of the best hiking in this area is along the tracks. nothing will keep me form doing what i have been doing for 40+ years.
Travis August 22, 2012 at 07:23 PM
I saw one of the train cars on a flatbed going down Wilkens into the city last night, wonder if they are taking them to the yard down that way.
Dave August 22, 2012 at 07:29 PM
mt. clare yard
Dean Tippett August 23, 2012 at 06:43 PM
we can't put fencing around all railroads. There will always be a gap somewhere to let cars cross, thus giving walkers an access point. The obly thing that will work, and even this will only be partially effective, will be more public service messages/warnings, signs, and policing of tracks. How about a mandatory movie for all kids in school with stories of this tragedy and interviews with family and friends. We can call it "CSX ed." Make it a serious movie with lots of family and friend tears.Come on schools with video production majors, let's get this done and in classrooms by the Spring in Maryland. It will spread across the country. Your public service message will make you famous for years to come and may kick-start your documentary career. Get started!.
Dean Tippett August 23, 2012 at 06:59 PM
OK Movie majors Save some lives!

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