Safety officials have reached no conclusions about what caused a CSX freight train to derail in Ellicott City Monday night, killing two 19-year-old girls sitting on the railroad bridge in town.
Crews worked non-stop through the night to clean up the tons of coal that spilled onto cars, roads, and in some waterways along the track, according to National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss. Eighteen of the 21 derailed cars have been inspected and removed, as have 59 other cars and two locomotives that weren't knocked over in the incident.
The on-site NTSB's investigation could take days, and anywhere from 12 to 18 months before the safety agency releases a full report detailing the cause of the derailment and recommendations to prevent a similar accident from occurring again.
Crews were removing lengths of the track Wednesday morning, loading pieces of rail onto flatbed trucks to be taken to a separate location and put back together -- a standard part of the NTSB's rail accident investigations, Weiss said.
(See more photos from the derailment scene.)
Investigators will examine all aspects of the derailment, looking for both mechanical and human error.
Three crew members were aboard the train when it derailed, spilling coal onto Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr, both 19-year-old Ellicott City residents.
CSX spokesman Gary Sease said access to tracks "continues to be a problem with CSX and all the country's railroads."
An engineer in training was operating the freight train at the time of the derailment, according to lead investigator Jim Southworth. Emergency breaks were deployed automatically, though it's not clear if the brakes were caused by or the cause of the derailment.
Also onboard were a conductor and engineer. The crew members were not injured.