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Cracked rail caused 2012 Md. coal train derailment

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 31, 2014 at 1:51 pm •  Published: July 31, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — A coal train derailment that killed two Maryland college students was caused by a broken rail on a section of track being monitored by a railroad because of previous problems, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.

The NTSB's conclusion was part of a 19-page report on its investigation into the 2012 derailment in Ellicott City. The derailment of the CSX train on Aug. 20, 2012 killed Rose Mayr and Elizabeth Nass, both 19, who were spending a summer night together before heading back to college. They were sitting on a railroad bridge when 21 cars of the 80-car train derailed shortly before midnight. They were buried in coal and died.

The NTSB's report says an investigation revealed that a section of rail that caused the derailment showed evidence of a gradual breakdown. In particular, the rail showed evidence of wear that results from trains moving over the track, called "rolling contact fatigue." The report said CSX was aware of rail problems and had been inspecting track in the area of the derailment every 30 days even though regulations only required a once-a-year inspection.

Robert Hall, the head of the NTSB office that investigates rail accidents, said Thursday after the report was made public that CSX had been doing "significantly more than what was required" as far as track inspection. He said the area of the track where the derailment happened had been scheduled for a major overhaul and had been more heavily used in recent years because of the growth of shipping of coal overseas, something it hadn't seen in the past.

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