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Funerals scheduled for two victims as Maryland train derailment probed

By Ed Payne, CNN
August 23, 2012 -- Updated 0611 GMT (1411 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • They died early Tuesday when a train derailed on the bridge on which they were sitting
  • NTSB says a break in an air line may have caused emergency braking
  • County official says he plans to assess how the young women got access to the bridge

(CNN) -- Funeral and memorial services will take place at week's end for two young women killed when a train carrying coal derailed near Baltimore, burying them.

Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr, both 19, died early Tuesday when the train derailed on the bridge on which they were sitting, spilling coal on top of them, police said.

Visitation is scheduled for Thursday and a memorial Mass on Friday for Nass at Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City, Maryland.

For Mayr, two viewings are planned for Friday at Harry H. Witzke's Family Funeral Home and a funeral service at Bethany United Methodist Church on Saturday, also in Ellicott City.

A makeshift memorial of ribbons and flowers sprung up along Main Street, not far from where the women perished, CNN affiliate WJLA-TV reported. The roadway is closed while crews clear the scene and authorities investigate. It is expected to reopen Friday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the crew aboard the train did not apply the emergency brakes just before the accident.

Instead, the air brakes were automatically triggered, agency spokesman Jim Southworth said Wednesday, noting that a possible rupture in an air line may have caused the emergency braking.

Southworth said the investigation was just in its beginning stages.

He added the train, with two locomotives and 80 cars, had been traveling about 25 mph when it jumped the tracks.

The first 21 cars behind the locomotives derailed.

Maryland train derailment delays terrorism trial at Guantanamo

The derailed train also damaged fiber-optic lines and temporarily disrupted Internet service at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, delaying the trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others facing terrorism charges this week, a base spokesman said.

The facility lost about 50% of its connectivity, which is serviced by satellite downlink locations in Maine and Maryland, according to Capt. Robert Durand.

The service was restored withing 24 hours, a spokesman for Verizon, which maintains the line, said.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said that once the initial investigation has been completed, authorities will assess how Mayr and Nass got access to the bridge.

They were apparently sitting on the bridge ledge just after midnight with their backs to the train when it derailed, according to a written statement from Howard County police.

The two posted photos to Twitter shortly before the crash. One showed feet dangling over a road, with the caption "Levitating." Another appeared to look down Main Street.

Nass tweeted, "Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign with @ r0se_petals." The name Ellicott City is painted on the railroad bridge.

Rachel Green, who went to school with Mayr in the nursing program at the University of Delaware, said, despite the Twitter posts, her friend was not irresponsible.

"They were just living life a little bit on the edge, and some people can do that five billion times and they live to be 80 and they live to tell all the times they lived on the edge," Green told affiliate WMAR-TV. "Some people do it once in their life, and they can't live to tell their tale."

Mayr was about to start her junior year. Nass attended James Madison in Virginia.

"They were both terrific kids," Mount Hebron High School Principal Scott Ruehl said. "Both girls were really involved in the dance program. They were pleasant; they always said hi in the hallway."

Marmie Edwards, a spokeswoman for Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit organization that promotes railroad safety, said the number of fatalities in 2012 involving people on tracks was up significantly.

"It's probably just as well to stay away, not just to be off the tracks, but stay away from the train so you know you're going to be safe," she said. "Because it's hard to say, 'OK, here it's safe; there it's not.' So just stay away."

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, in the first five months of the year, 178 people were killed in accidents on or near tracks, not including at railroad crossings.

iReport: Damaged rail car

CNN's Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell contributed to this report.

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