In the year that he has lived on Main Street in historic Ellicott City, Jim VanHeel has seen flooding, a deadly shooting at a nearby church and, early Tuesday morning, a fatal train derailment.
"It seems like something is always happening," he said.
The latest incident, the derailment of a CSX coal train, occurred around midnight Tuesday, and claimed the lives of two teenage girls who were sitting close to the tracks.
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- Elizabeth Conway Nass
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- Rose Louese Mayr
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Late Tuesday morning, county police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn identified the two victims as Rose Louese Mayr and Elizabeth Conway Nass, both 19 and from Ellicott City.
Tuesday afternoon, Llewellyn released additional information about the accident.
"The teens' bodies were located seated on the edge of a bridge over Main Street," Llewellyn said in a news release. "It appears to investigators that the girls were sitting on the ledge facing east toward Baltimore County with their backs to the side of the train as it passed a few feet behind them.
"For an unknown reason, the train derailed, causing open cars filled with coal to tip over. Both Nass and Mayr were buried under the coal as it dumped from the train cars."
The official causes of death will not be known until after autopsies are performed, police said.
Mayr and Nass were 2010 graduates of Mount Hebron High School.
"They were great students, great people, active in the school; both were involved in dance," Mount Hebron Principal Scott Ruehl said. "It's a tragic loss for not just Mount Hebron and the families but the whole community, because they're such great kids."
Ruehl said counseling will be available for students when they return to school next week. The school also has a list of outside counselors for parents wishing to get their children in counseling this week.
Cynthia Dillon, Principal at Patapsco Middle School, broke the news to staff this morning when only Nass' death was confirmed
"There were a lot of tears," Dillon said. "There was shock and the sick feeling in the pit of your stomach you get when something happens to someone you care about."
Dillon has only been principal at Patapsco since 2010, but she said many teachers remembered Nass.
"When you go into education, you never expect to outlive your students, and for Elizabeth to be as accomplished as people told me she was, its exceptionally hard," Dillon said.
"These kids are our kids forever, it's as much of a pain as if she was still walking through the hallways today," Dillon said.
Police said Mayr was a student at the University of Delaware and Nass attended James Madison University in Virginia.
Outside of the Nass residence on Sara Beth Court early Tuesday afternoon, family members declined to comment.
A family friend and classmate of Elizabeth Nass' younger brother, Jon Nass, stopped by the house to drop off a rose and express her condolences to the family.
"She was always very nice and very pretty, and was someone people would look up to," Mount Hebron High School Senior Tish Carmona said. "So many people are praying for them. We love them."