Twenty-one of the train's 80 cars flipped over around midnight Monday, Howard County officials said. Some of the train cars crushed parked vehicles in a nearby county-owned lot, County Executive Ken Ulman said. Cranes were brought in Tuesday morning to remove train cars from the vehicles so they can be searched for other potential victims.
"Many of those train cars fell onto automobiles, literally fell onto automobiles with the coal," said Ulman. "So you have massive piles of coal and heavy train cars on top of automobiles."
The two people who were killed were on the rail bridge and were not railroad employees. The victims' identities were not immediately released.
Two train operators were not harmed, officials said.
Jill Farrell, a 35-year-old assistant professor who lives across the street from the tracks, said she heard what sounded liked brakes being slammed and then a huge crash. "It actually sounded like trains went off the tracks, and then silence."
Farrell said the tracks are easily accessible and in an area where there are several bars.
CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan told WJLA-TV in Washington that the train was traveling from Grafton, W.Va., to Baltimore.
It's unclear what caused the crash. A CSX team was investigating.
Streets in the area were closed early Tuesday.