Hundreds mourn victim of train derailment

Mourners gather outside the Church of the Resurrection after funeral services for Elizabeth Conway Nass who was killed in Ellicott City when a train derailed and dumped coal on top of her and her friend Rose Louese Mayr, crushing them both to death.
Mourners gather outside the Church of the Resurrection after funeral services for Elizabeth Conway Nass who was killed in Ellicott City when a train derailed and dumped coal on top of her and her friend Rose Louese Mayr, crushing them both to death. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun)

Some 700 mourners filled the pews Friday for a funeral Mass for 19-year-old Elizabeth Conway Nass, who died after being "at the wrong place at the wrong time," Monsignor John A. Dietzenbach said, referring to this week's tragic train derailment in Ellicott City.

Ms. Nass, who died along with her friend, Rose Louese Mayr, was remembered at the Church of the Resurrection as a fun-loving, spirited woman who was studying at James Madison University in Virginia to be a special-education teacher.

"Elizabeth and Rose were at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that doesn't seem to be a satisfying answer," said Monsignor Dietzenbach. He called on the mourners to foster Ms. Nass' "spirit and energy" to carry out the contributions she intended to make to society.

Ms. Nass and Ms. Mayr, 19, were sitting on the edge of a railroad bridge over the town's historic Main Street when an 80-car CSX train derailed, burying the young women in coal. The 2010 Mount Hebron High School graduates, friends since elementary school, were sharing each other's company one last time before parting ways to start their junior years at college.

Ms. Nass and Ms. Mayr, a nursing student at the University of Delaware, died of compressional asphyxia as the coal crushed their bodies, according to the medical examiner.

At Friday's service, the front of the church was adorned with flowers, including white and pink roses in the shape of a peace sign.

Ms. Nass' mother, Susan, quietly moved around the church, giving long and sometimes tearful hugs to those whose lives her daughter touched.

Cousins shared stories of the woman from the pulpit, including tales of childhood pranks. One cousin, Kyle Nass, thanked the congregation for talking about their memories of "Elizabeth," "Liz," and "Betty," as she was variously known.

Other family members asked for prayers for Ms. Mayr's family and friends, for teachers and students as they start school, and for firefighters, paramedics and police officers so that they don't lose heart from the tragedies they encounter.

Among the mourners were a handful of Ms. Nass' Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority sisters. Ms. Mayr's parents, Mark and Sharon, also attended.

A funeral service for Ms. Mayr is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Bethany United Methodist Church, 2875 Bethany Lane, Ellicott City.

Jill Booth, one of Ms. Mayr's roommates at the University of Delaware, said she was the kind of friend one meets just once in a lifetime. Ms. Booth said she will cherish Ms. Mayr's friendship for the rest of her life.

"Her spirit was captivating and her personality unforgettable," Ms. Booth said in an email. "I am honored and will be forever grateful to have shared so many memories with her during our first two years at the University of Delaware. Our sweet Rose will always be in my heart."

Paige Mazzie, another one of Ms. Mayr's roommates, recalled her as "beautiful, kind and loving." Ms. Mazzie said Ms. Mayr was a dancer and singer who found a balance between maintaining high academic marks and enjoying college social life.

"Rose always went with 'the flow' of everything, always calm," Ms. Mazzie wrote in an email. "She brought a smile to anyone's face without having to try. ...

"This year will not be [the] same without her as a roommate and a friend. I loved Rose, like many others, and she will forever be in my heart and with my memories."

Ms. Nass' services were held the same day the National Transportation Safety Board revised the time at which it believes the train derailment occurred, shifting it from 12:02 a.m. Tuesday to 11:56 p.m. Monday.

The agency estimated damage from the accident at $2.2 million, including the cost of environmental cleanup.

The NTSB said its investigation of the signal system is complete and that all of the rail equipment from the derailed train has been recovered and inspected. The agency expected to finish interviews with the train crew, maintenance workers and track inspectors Friday afternoon.

Jim Southworth, the NTSB's investigator in charge, expected to complete the on-scene phase of the investigation Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said roads that had been closed in downtown Ellicott City since the accident were to reopen at 7 p.m. Friday.

Some community members were rallying support for the town's small businesses, which lost customers after the accident shut down part of Main Street. The Main Street Appreciation weekend was set to start Friday with a "night out" focusing on restaurants and bars, said Tom Coale, a local blogger leading the effort.

Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.



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