* Midnight derailment buries two college students
* Victims were tweeting moments before accident
* Derailment knocks out data network in Guantanamo Bay,
By Dan Burns
Aug 21 A freight train derailed early Tuesday
while crossing an overpass west of Baltimore, spilling tons of
coal on top of two 19-year-old women who were sitting on the
bridge and killing them, police said.
The accident also crushed nearby cars and damaged
telecommunications lines in the area, affecting data connections
as far away as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where a pretrial hearing
for five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks was
delayed by a day as a result.
The derailment occurred just after midnight as a CSX Corp
train was headed east through Ellicott City, about 12
miles (20 km) west of Baltimore, Howard County Police said in a
Police discovered the dead women during their early-morning
investigation of the accident, the cause of which remains
unknown. The National Transportation Safety Board has taken over
The two women, identified as Ellicott City residents
Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr, apparently were sitting on a ledge
of the bridge over Ellicott City's Main Street when the
derailment occurred, police said
The police statement said the women had their backs to the
train when it passed a few feet from them.
"For an unknown reason, the train derailed, causing open
cars filled with coal to tip over," the statement said. "Both
Nass and Mayr were buried under the coal as it dumped from the
TWEETS BEFORE DERAILMENT
The two had been sending Twitter messages shortly before the
accident and police said they are aware of photos posted to
Twitter that appear to have been sent from them on the bridge.
A tweet from Nass's account, @LizNassty, sent shortly before
the accident reads: "Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign
One photo sent from Nass's account showed two sets of bare
feet dangling over a darkened street, with the caption
"Levitating." A second depicts a street illuminated by street
and traffic lights and captioned: "Looking down on old ec," an
apparent abbreviation for Ellicott City.
According to their Facebook pages, Nass was a student at
Virginia's James Madison University and Mayr attended the
University of Delaware. They graduated together from Ellicott
City's Mount Hebron High School in 2010, their Facebook pages
Twenty-one of the train's 80 cars derailed, police said.
Operators of the train's two locomotives were unharmed.
"Many of those train cars fell onto automobiles, literally
fell onto automobiles with the coal, so you have massive piles
of coal and heavy train cars on top of automobiles," Howard
County Executive Ken Ulman told NBC News.
Phone company Verizon Communications said the
accident knocked out service along its lines through the area,
which included some to government servers that were needed for
lawyers preparing for a pretrial hearing for the five men being
held at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, some 1,300 miles
(2,090 km) away.
Hearings had been scheduled to begin on Wednesday for the
alleged mastermind of the hijacked plane attacks, Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed, and four co-defendants facing death penalty charges of
mass murder, terrorism and conspiring with al Qaeda.
The derailment knocked out part of the wire-and-satellite
network that provides communications to the base in eastern
Cuba, said Captain Robert Durand, a spokesman for the Guantanamo
detention operation. That left defense lawyers and prosecutors
at the base temporarily unable to access email and electronic
CSX, which is the second-largest U.S. railroad by both
revenue and stock market capitalization, said the accident did
not significantly affected rail traffic in the region.