Profiles of Philadelphia Amtrak train derailment victims

By 05.13.2015 news > US

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Seven people were killed in an Amtrak train derailment Tuesday night in Philadelphia. One was an Associated Press employee, and another was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. The third was a Wells Fargo executive, and the fourth was CEO of an education startup. The others have not been publicly identified.

At least one person still missing from the crash has been identified by friends and family members.

Those who died include:

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JIM GAINES

Jim Gaines, an Associated Press video software architect, was a geek’s geek — and his colleagues loved him for it.

The 48-year-old father of two was named the news agency’s Geek of the Month in May 2012 for his “tireless dedication and contagious passion” to technological innovation.

“At AP, not a frame goes by in the world of video that escapes the passionate scrutiny of video architect Jim Gaines,” the award said.

Gaines was in the train’s quiet car, headed home to Plainsboro, New Jersey, after meetings Tuesday at the news agency’s Washington, D.C., office. His wife, Jacqueline, confirmed his death.

“Jim was more precious to us than we can adequately express,” his family said in a statement.

Gaines joined the AP in 1998 and was a key factor in nearly all of the news agency’s video initiatives, including the successful rollout of high-definition video and the AP’s Video Hub — a service that provides live video to hundreds of clients around the world.

In 2006, Gaines’ team won the Chairman’s Prize in 2006 for development of the agency’s Online Video Network.

Gaines “leaves behind a legacy of professionalism and critical accomplishment, kindness and humor,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt told employees in an email. “He will be missed.”

He is also survived by a 16-year-old son, Oliver, and an 11-year-old daughter, Anushka.

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JUSTIN ZEMSER

Justin Zemser, a popular student leader and athlete, was on a break from the U.S. Naval Academy and heading home to Rockaway Beach, New York, where playing high school football helped him and his teammates through the devastation of Superstorm Sandy.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called Zemser a “crucial member” of the institution.

The 20-year-old’s family released a statement mourning “a loving son, nephew and cousin who was very community-minded.” They said the tragedy “has shocked us all in the worst way.”

Zemser was in his second year. He served as vice president of the Jewish Midshipmen Club and played wide receiver on the academy’s sprint football team.

At Channel View School for Research, Zemser was valedictorian, student government president and captain of the football team.

Sandy shuttered the school building for two months, but he and his teammates salvaged their season, returning to the field for a final game in Staten Island two weeks after the storm.

Zemser mentored younger students, and he and a classmate even took it upon themselves to analyze Channel View’s SAT data and give presentations on how to prepare students better, then-Principal Pat Tubridy recalled.

“He was so committed, and yet so easygoing,” she said.

Outside school, Zemser interned for New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich and former Councilman James Sanders. Ulrich called him “truly a bright, talented and patriotic young man.”

Zemser also volunteered with a church program, a soup kitchen and a nursing home and mentored children with autism, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said. Schumer and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks nominated Zemser to the Naval Academy, and Meeks was struck by his “high character, intellectual curiosity, and maturity beyond his years.”

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ABID GILANI

Abid Gilani, a senior vice president in the Hospitality Finance Group for Wells Fargo in New York City, had been with the company for just about a year, according to his LinkedIn page.

A company spokeswoman said Gilani is one of seven confirmed deaths in Tuesday night’s Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia.

“Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy,” a statement read.

Before joining Wells Fargo, Gilani had been with Marriott International for eight years.

The company said Gilani, originally from Canada, split his time between Washington and New York. He was a married father of two.

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RACHEL JACOBS

Rachel Jacobs, a leader in the increasingly technology-driven worker training and development industry, was commuting home to New York from her new job as CEO of the Philadelphia educational software startup ApprenNet.

The 39-year-old mother of two previously worked at McGraw-Hill, leading the expansion of the company’s career-learning business into China, India and the Middle East, and Ascend Learning, another education-technology firm.

Jacobs is the daughter of Gilda Jacobs, a former Michigan state senator and current chief executive of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The family said in a statement that Rachel Jacobs “was a wonderful mother, daughter, sister, wife and friend” who was devoted to family and social justice.

She was a founder and board chair at Detroit Nation, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting startups in her Michigan hometown.

Through the organization, Jacobs helped bring the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to New York for its first concert at Carnegie Hall in 17 years.

She attended Swarthmore College and Columbia Business School. She joined ApprenNet in March and had planned on moving to Philadelphia.

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DERRICK GRIFFITH

Derrick Griffith, dean of student affairs and enrollment management at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York, believed in education — for himself as well as others.

He formerly was a school principal and in 2003 he founded the City University of New York Preparatory Transitional High School. He also was executive director of Groundwork. Inc., an organization formed to support young people living in high poverty urban communities.

Griffith joined Medgar Evers College in 2011 as assistant provost. It was the first of a number of roles he would fill at the college, where officials said he urged students to pursue education “with vigor.”

A month ago, the 42-year-old received a doctorate of philosophy in urban education from the City University of New York Graduate Center.

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Those missing included:

BOB GILDERSLEEVE

Bob Gildersleeve, who’s from Maryland, is believed to have been on the Amtrak train that derailed. He has worked for Ecolab for 22 years and lives near Baltimore, company spokesman Roman Blahoski said.

Gildersleeve’s family was in Philadelphia, circulating his photo and information about what he was wearing. He had a ticket for the train that crashed Tuesday, his father said, and relatives have been unable to get information from Amtrak on his whereabouts.

Gildersleeve is married and has two children, ages 16 and 13. The younger son was in Philadelphia with his grandfather to look for him.

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