Cause of Death Determined for CSX Train Derailment Victims

Rose Mayr and Elizabeth Nass died of compressional asphyxia

Thursday, Aug 23, 2012  |  Updated 6:57 PM EDT
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CSX Train Derailment Investigation Continues

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19-Year-Old Friends Die in Train Derailment

Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr were sitting on the train bridge Monday night as a CSX coal freighter derailed on a bridge in Ellicott City, Md.

CSX Train Derailment Investigation Continues

Shomari Stone is on the scene
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A medical examiner has ruled on a cause of death for the two 19-year-olds who died in a CSX freight train derailment in Ellicott City, Md.

The deaths of Rose Mayr and Elizabeth Nass were ruled accidental. They died of compressional asphyxia, which occurs when compression of the chest makes it difficult to breathe. Their bodies were found buried under coal that spilled from some of the 21 overturned train cars.

The two 19-year-old college students were sitting on a bridge just feet from the tracks when the train derailed Monday night.

Tweets and photos from the women indicated they were drinking on the bridge as they enjoyed a summer night together before heading back to school. “Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign,” read one tweet. “Looking down on old ec,” read another.

The bridge the women were on is easily accessible from the picturesque downtown of Ellicott City, which is about 15 miles west of Baltimore, and generations of young people have played and partied along the tracks.  

Services will be held Thursday night for Nass at the Church of Resurrection in Ellicott City. Her funeral is scheduled for Friday morning. Mayr's funeral is set for Saturday.

Federal investigators have said the train was going the authorized speed of 25 miles per hour with an engineer-in-training at the controls before the wreck.  

Investigators also said the train's emergency brakes were applied automatically -- not by the three-man crew -- but they don't yet know why 21 cars of the 80 cars derailed.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jim Southworth has said the train's two locomotives did not derail and that the crew reported they “felt nothing, and they saw nothing before emergency braking occurred on their train.”

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