He went to the tracks, approached a locomotive and saw no one there. Then he ran toward the back of the train, where he met a man who identified himself as the conductor.

"I asked him if he was all right," said Moran. The man said he had seen the women near the tracks, and had passed them. Then, he said "the rail blew out," the cars started going over, and the coal started spilling out, according to Moran.

Eric Weiss, an NTSB spokesman, said investigators got statements from CSX crew members Tuesday but would interview them in person for the first time Wednesday. "Certainly what the crew heard and saw is going to be of great interest to our investigators," he said.

CSX did not respond immediately to questions about the crew member's remarks.

On its website, CSX calls itself as the largest coal transporter east of the Mississippi River and says it "provides service from the largest number of active coal origins, seamlessly interchanges with Western railroads and short lines, and provides access to multiple Eastern seaports."

At least nine NTSB investigators were at the scene Tuesday. The agency is investigating signals, communication, conditions of the track, conditions of the bridge and equipment. They are also determining whether 25 mph was the correct speed for that stretch of track, Southworth said. A track expert flew in Tuesday from Chicago.

Southworth also noted that the train was equipped with a video camera that can provide information in the direction the train was headed. Once reviewed, the recording should help investigators determine what the engineer did or did not see, he said.

Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said emergency response and water management crews with the agency were on the scene starting at 1 a.m., but at first had limited access to the derailed trains because of the search and rescue operation.

Once they gained access, they determined that about half a carload of coal was in a "position likely to pollute" near a tributary of the Patapsco River, Apperson said. There were also an estimated 100 pounds of coal in the tributary's waters, he said.

Apperson said the crews then began working with an environmental engineering consultant hired by CSX to assess the water based on a number of pollution factors, including acidity, turbidity, iron and sediment levels.

The agency was also working with cleanup crews to limit erosion of soil into the tributary as the train cars were loaded onto flatbed trucks and the coal was loaded into dump trucks. The agency will continue to watch for coal falling into the waterway, Apperson said.

Steve Bayne drove in from Elkridge as soon as he heard about the accident because his daughter lives in a brick building approximately 100 yards from the train track and she wasn't answering her phone.

"I was totally panicked," Bayne said. "A few of the girls who live in the same building said she was OK. She's asleep. I need to go up there and wake her up. She's going to be mad, but I have to tell her mother she's OK."

Additionally, nearby Verizon facilities were damaged in the accident. The phone company said area customers might have trouble making long-distance calls. Businesses and government customers might have their data services interrupted as the company worked to repair facilities and restore some services by rerouting network traffic to other facilities, it said.

The derailment also damaged Verizon's fiberoptic lines serving the U.S. military, forcing the postponement of a pretrial hearing at Guantanamo Bay in the case of five men charged in the Sept. 11 terror attacks, according to the Associated Press. The defendants include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has previously told authorities that he was the "mastermind" of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

In a statement, Gov. Martin O'Malleycalled the deaths of Nass and Mayr tragic. O'Malley said he had been in touch with County Executive Ken Ulman and that the state would be providing support to the county in responding to the derailment.

In his own statement, Ulman called the derailment a "terrible tragedy," and asked the community to keep the families and friends of Nass and Mayr in their thoughts and prayers. He also praised the "swift and coordinated response" of emergency personnel from Howard and Baltimore counties at the scene.

Frank Kreis, who just moved to Ellicott City Monday with his fiancee, Heidi Gasparrini, viewed the accident scene early Tuesday morning.

"This was like that movie about the unstoppable train," Kreis said. "I was really impressed with how quickly the railroad people got here. They have new tracks ready to go."

Tractor-trailers loaded with new track were parked along Main Street and Courthouse Drive.