Who Were The Amtrak Crash Victims? Here's What We Know About Them So Far
An Amtrak train headed from Washington, D.C. to New York City crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. The trained derailed, and at least eight people were killed and 200 were injured. The train appeared to have been traveling at 100 miles per hour as it an entered a curve where the speed limit is just 50 mph. Two of the people killed in the Amtrak crash were Justin Zemser, a Naval Academy midshipman, and Jim Gaines, an Associated Press employee. Information about the other five has not been officially released.
After six people were reported dead in the wreckage on Tuesday, a seventh person was confirmed dead on Wednesday afternoon, and rescue crews are still searching the wreckage. According to CNN, half of the 200 injured people have been released, but Herb Cushing, Temple University Hospital's medical director, told CNN that eight people are still in critical condition at the hospital, which was the closest to the crash site.
Only two of the seven people confirmed to be dead have been named by local investigators. The first, Gaines, was a 48-year-old father of two who worked as a video software architect for the Associated Press for the past 20 years. He won the AP's "Geek of the Month" award in 2012 for his "tireless dedication and contagious passion," the AP said. Gaines had attended meetings in Washington, D.C., and was returning home to Plainsboro, New Jersey, when the train derailed. The AP spoke of Gaines' passion for video and technology:
He was a key factor in nearly all of the news agency's video initiatives, including a service providing live video to hundreds of clients worldwide.
The second victim was 20-year-old Naval Academy midshipman Justin Zemser, who was heading home to Rockaway Beach, New York, on leave. Zemser, an only child, was apparently heading home to see his mother.
A family member described Zemser to CNN as a great person and genius whose death has left his parents "beside themselves." In a speech Wednesday at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus spoke about the loss to a class of midshipmen, according to the Navy Times:
I know that the brigade and the Navy family is struggling with this, and our thoughts go out to the brigade, family brigade for losing such a crucial member of this institution.
Zemser's mother, Susan Zemser, described him to CBS News as "the most wonderful kid," adding that he had a 4.0 GPA. Zemser had interned for City Councilman Eric Ulrich, a Queens Republican, in the past. Ulrich released a statement upon hearing of Zemser's death, according to the New York Daily News:
Justin was truly a bright, talented and patriotic young man. He will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him.
Most recently, the CEO of Philadelphia-based ApprenNet, Rachel Jacobs, has been reported missing. According to CNN, she hasn't been heard from since she left a meeting "with the intent to board the train," according to ApprenNet cofounder and friend Karl Okamoto. Okamoto told CNN that Jacobs uses a 10-trip ticket, so there wouldn't be a record of her boarding the train until the conductor scanned it after everyone was on board. Jacobs is married with a two-year-old son and commutes from her home in New York City to her job. Okamoto told CNN that her family and colleagues are becoming increasingly worried:
At this point we have no news. As you can imagine, we are all very frustrated by the lack of information.
President Barack Obama officially released a statement, which was tweeted out by the White House, saying that he and Michelle "were shocked and deeply saddened" by the derailment and the destruction it caused. Obama's statement called the crash a tragedy felt along the East Coast, where commuting by Amtrak is a common "way of life":
Along the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak is a way of life for many. From Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia to New York City and Boston, this is a tragedy that touches us all.