One of the two 19-year-old girls who died after an overnight train derailment attended the University of Delaware, according to sources.
Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr were sitting on the train bridge over Main Street as a CSX coal freighter derailed just after midnight Tuesday on a bridge in Ellicott City, Md.
"We have learned through information from friends and family members that there may have been two teenagers who were on the bridge in this area shortly before the incident," a Howard County police spokeswoman said.
Emergency workers found 21 cars of an 80-car freight train derailed or overturned. The cars contained coal only.
Police autopsies have found the pair were crushed to death.
Their bodies were found buried under coal after the CSX freight train derailed, just after midnight on Monday. Investigators say the girls were sitting on a railroad bridge when the train derailed, toppling coal from the railroad cars.
“It is tragic that we’ve lost two young women in the train derailment early this morning in Ellicott City," Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a statement. "I’ve spoken with County Executive Ulman, and the state will continue to support our first responders and local partners in Howard County.”
Several cars in a nearby parking lot were crushed as some cars fell from the bridge. The bridge runs along the main street of the historic section of downtown Ellicott City.
"Many of those train cars fell onto automobiles," said Howard County executive Ken Ulman. "So you have massive piles of coal and train cars on top of automobiles."
Cranes are being used to remove the train cars from the vehicles, and the cars are being searched for other possible victims.
Mayr and Nass both tweeted about sitting on the bridge shortly before 9 p.m. Mayr sent pictures of their feet dangling over the edge, and a view from the bridge.
Nearby residents heard the derailment. "I heard this tremendous noise," said one woman.
"It was the loudest I'd ever heard the train," said another, "and it was just straight screeching, and I thought to myself, 'It sounds like it's derailing.' My coffee table was just shaking, and I was like, 'OK, that's not normal.' This is awful."
It's not clear yet whether the train derailed because it was trying to avoid the girls on the bridge, reports NBC4's Megan McGrath. Satellite images from Google Maps indicate that the bridge had room on each side of the tracks.
The train was bound for Baltimore from Grafton, W.Va.
The National Transportation Safety Board has taken over the investigation from local authorities.
Earlier Tuesday morning, a spokesperson told reporters that friends and family of Nass and Mayr had come forward to say the girls may have been on the bridge at the time of the crash. However, it took time for the bodies to be extricated from the crash and identified.
"It just looked like mass mayhem," said a witness. "It just looked like when I was a little kid, and I would just run the [toy] train off of the track, and everything went just every which way."
Mayr was a nursing student at the University of Delaware. She was set to begin class next week.
"It's definitely very upsetting," said Lauren Torretta, a student at the University of Delaware. "Sometimes things like that can bring a school community together."
Grief counselors will be on hand to help students cope with the tragedy as the new school year draws closer.