Discuss as:

Freight train derailment in Maryland kills 2

On Monday night two college students died during a freight train accident in Ellicott City, Md. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

At least two people were killed when a freight train hauling coal derailed west of Baltimore late Monday.

Police and fire department personnel responded to an emergency call at about 11:45 p.m. Monday and reported that 21 of the train’s 80 cars flipped over and fell from a bridge in Ellicott City, Md, a city just 14 miles from Baltimore. The cars contained coal but were not carrying any hazardous materials.

The CSX train left from Grafton, W. Va., and was bound for Baltimore.

“Many of those train cars fell onto automobiles, literally fell onto automobiles with the coal, so you have massive piles of coal and heavy train cars on top of automobiles,” Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said.

Watch US News videos on NBCNews.com

The victims were identified Tuesday as Elizabeth Nass, 19, and Rose Mayr, 19, both of Ellicott City. Howard County police said the young women were sitting on the ledge of a bridge with their backs to the side of the passing train at the time of the derailment, but were not railroad employees; officers did not know why they were there.

Both Mayr and Nass both tweeted and posted pictures about sitting on the bridge around 9 p.m.

Their bodies were found buried under a pile of coal that spilled out from the open cars.

Witnesses said the coal on the ground was about a foot high.

Stay informed with the latest headlines; sign up for our newsletter

Nass attended James Madison University in Virginia. Mayr was a student at the University of Delaware, NBCWashington reported.

The train’s three operators were not harmed in the incident, police said. Rescue crews are still working to clean up the coal and searching for more possible victims.

“A CSX [Rail Corp.] has brought in heavy cranes to move those train cars so we can search the vehicles to see if we have any additional victims,” Ullman said. “We hope and we do pray that we do not.”

Jim Southworth with the National Transportation Safety Board said at a news conference Tuesday the operators saw and felt nothing before the train’s emergency brake was activated.

The eastbound train had two locomotives, weighed 9,000 tons and was 3,000-feet-long.

It fell into a parking lot near Main Street in Ellicott City. Several other streets have been closed because of the crash, Ellicott City Patch reported.

The damaged cars are being removed from the scene. Southworth said investigators will review video taken from inside the train and conduct an inspection of the track and signal system.

Watch the most-viewed videos on NBCNews.com

Representatives from the Maryland State Department of the Environment surveyed the scene and tentatively said that there was no serious impact on the nearby Patapsco River.

“It could have been a lot worse when it comes to chemicals,” Ulman said.

It’s not known what caused the derailment

More content from NBCNews.com:

Follow US News from NBCNews.com on Twitter and Facebook