(Ellicott City, Maryland – August 21, 2012)
Two innocent bystanders were killed when a 90-car CSX coal train pulled by two locomotives headed from West Virginia to Baltimore, MD derailed 21 of the train’s 80 cars when the brake line broke directly behind the locomotives, causing slack to run in as the train rounded a sharp curve. The bystanders were first believed to have been walking along the Main Street/Frederick Road Bridge in Ellicott City’s popular historic and entertainment district early Tuesday morning just after midnight, but were later understood to have actually been on the railroad bridge itself.
The victims were identified as two 19-year-old college students from Ellicott City, Elizabeth Nass , a student at James Madison University and Rose Mayr, a student at Delaware University. When the tragic incident took place, both victims were enjoying a final summer night out before they resumed their college careers. The victims were buried under tons of coal and rail cars, which fell 17 to 20 feet from the CSX bridge which is over that Main Street’s bridge that crosses the Patapsco River. Cars parked in an adjacent Howard County-owned parking lot, many belonging to late night customers at the area’s many eating and entertainment venues, were literally crushed by the falling cars and coal.
The train crew told police they never saw the two victims as they passed over the bridge where they were allegedly situated.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman told reporters that CSX was bringing in cranes to remove train cars from the crushed vehicles so they could be searched for other potential victims.
“It actually sounded like trains went off the track, and then silence,” recalled Jill Farrell, a 35-year-old assistant professor who lives across the street from the CSX tracks, saying she heard what sounded like brakes being applied and then a huge crash.
Numerous main thoroughfares were shut down as the Tuesday morning rush hour began.
The National Transportation Safety Board was dispatching a team of investigators and the Maryland Dept. of the Environment had already arrived at the scene. Also conducting an investigation into the tragedy, which did serious damage to Ellicott City’s historic district, was a team from CSX.