Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

August 21, 2012

Friends tweet before dying in Md. train derailment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — —

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (AP) — They were seemingly ordinary tweets from two friends hanging out on a railroad bridge in their hometown, enjoying one last summer night together before heading back to college.

"Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign," read one. "Looking down on old ec," read another. Accompanying photos showed their view from the bridge and their bare feet, one with painted blue toenails, dangling over the edge.

Minutes after those messages were sent, a CSX freight train loaded with coal barreled down the tracks and derailed, killing the 19-year-old women and toppling railcars and coal on the streets below.

Investigators were still trying to figure out what caused the derailment. It appeared the women were sitting on the edge of the bridge as the train passed a few feet behind them, Howard County police said. At some point, the train derailed and the women's bodies were found buried under coal.

It wasn't clear whether the woman's presence on the tracks had anything to do with the derailment.

Killed were Elizabeth Conway Nass, a student at James Madison University in Virginia and Rose Louese Mayr, a nursing student at the University of Delaware.

The railroad is easily accessible from picturesque downtown Ellicott City and generations of young people have played and partied along the tracks. The railroad was completed in 1830 and crosses over Main Street in the city's historic district, following the route of the nation's first commercial railroad, according to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum.

"We grew up running on those tracks," said Ellicott City native Bridgette Hammond, 25. "It's actually really beautiful up there."

Nass and Mayr graduated from Mt. Hebron High School in Ellicott City and planned to finish college in 2014, according to their Facebook pages.

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