Derailed Train That Killed Girls Traveling Just 25mph
Details begin to emerge in tragic accident, but many questions remain
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2012 9:41 AM CDT
This 2010 image provided by the Howard County Public School System shows Elizabeth Conway Nass, 19, in her Mt. Hebron High School, Md., graduation photo.   (AP Photo/Howard County Public School System)
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(Newser) – Investigators continue to sift through the evidence in a bid to determine whether the two 19-year-olds killed in a Tuesday coal-train derailment may have contributed to the crash, or were just tragically in the wrong place at the wrong time. That and other questions remain unanswered, but some details are firming up, per the Washington Post and the AP:

  • An engineer-in-training was behind the controls at the time of the accident in Ellicott City, Maryland; however, the train was going the correct speed: 25mph.

  • The train's emergency brakes were automatically engaged; the three-man crew said they "felt nothing, and they saw nothing before emergency braking occurred on their train." They say they never saw the teens.
  • Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr were not hit by the derailing cars, but were buried under tons of coal. “Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign,” Nass tweeted just before the derailment.
  • A rail safety expert shares his theories on what could have caused the derailment: a broken rail or wheel, or a gap in the track.
  • CSX owns both the train and the rail bed; three CSX trains have derailed in Maryland this month.