The derailing train spilled coal, burying the young women; it was their bodies that were found in the tangled parts of a train that derailed last night.
Nineteen-year-old Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr were best friends, and both getting ready to head back to college.
As investigators sift through mangled freight cars and huge loads of dumped coal, some details- but no definite cause- are offered for the derailment of freight train.
According to the Natl. Transportation Safety Board as the CSX train rolled through Ellicott City, going 25 miles an hour, something caused the train to jump the tracks.
Then, “from the derailment, the air hoses were separated somewhere in the train line, and that causes the emergency brake application,” said Jim Southworth, with the NTSB.
Local residents heard the sound of 20 cars turning on their side.
"It was just screeching. It was just - it didn't sound normal. And I even remember thinking to myself, that sounds like it's derailing,” said local Lauren Ward.
Investigators said the operators of the train reported seeing nothing and feeling nothing before the emergency brakes came on automatically.
Police said the two women killed were sitting on the edge of a bridge with their back to the train, and just feet away as it passed.
When the train skipped the tracks, police said that open cars tipped over, burying the women in coal.
Elizabeth Nass was set to start her second year at James Madison University in Virginia. It's also on her Twitter page that many first learned what the girls were doing last night before they were killed.
Just before midnight, Elizabeth tweets, "drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign with rose petals (twitter user name) ..."
It was at the same time Rose Mayr posted a picture of the barefoot girls with their legs dangling over the bridge, a caption under the photo, "levitating ..."
figs (@fringefigure) August 22, 2012
As the girls' night of drinking and picture-taking continued, a train carrying cars of coal sped their way.
Their deaths have shocked many, including their former high school principal.
"You know, it's devastating,” Scott Ruehl, Mt. Hebron High School Principal, said. "I mean they were wonderful students, great girls involved in the school ..."
The inseparable friends shared classes together at Mount Hebron High School, the principal calling them bright and energetic. "Highly involved in the dance program here, and great families that were involved ..."
"It's sad to start the school year off with such tragic news,” Ruehl said.
Mount Hebron High School starts Monday. One of the girl's brother is a senior at the school.
"The great thing I know is that the Mount Hebron community will rally around to support these families and to support the students and the siblings,” said Ruehl.
And again, investigators can't say what caused the train to derail. They're reviewing audio and videotapes from on board to try to make that determination.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 178 people were killed in accidents on or near tracks through the first five months of the year.
That number does not include incidents at railroad crossings.
*reporting from WJZ and CNN contributed to this report