Md. man, NY college dean among victims in Amtrak crash
Eight people were killed in an Amtrak train derailment Tuesday night in Philadelphia, including an Associated Press employee, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy and a Wells Fargo executive.
Here is what we know about the victims so far:
A mother lost her only son, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, in the crash. FOX 5's Matt Ackland spoke with 20-year-old Justin Zemser's mother by phone on Wednesday.
Susan Zemser said she exchanged text messages with her son while he was on the train ride home to visit his family in New York Tuesday night.
"Just make sure you make me something to eat when I get home," Justin told his mom.
Susan said Justin played football in the Navy and kept a 4.0 grade point average.
"Everybody looked up to my son. They always asked him for help. My son was one of the good boys. He hung out with a great bunch of friends," Susan said.
"Justin is the kind of officer that everyone should strive to be," said Zach Johnson, one of his best friends at the academy. "He saw the best of people and he made sure he brought that out in you."
The loss is overwhelming for everyone at the academy who knew him. Johnson told us Zemser's smile could light up a room and he was a true leader.
"I had a rough time in the beginning of the year and he was right there to tell me he believed in me, he thought I could do it, and he was right there to push me through," Johnson said.
In a statement, the Naval Academy said it's supporting the midshipman's family, friends, and loved ones. Grief counseling services and support are being made available.
Wells Fargo says a 55-year-old senior vice president was among the seven people killed aboard the Amtrak train.
"It is with great sadness that Wells Fargo confirms that Abid Gilani, a valued member of our Commercial Real Estate division, has passed away. Our hearts go out to all those impacted by this tragedy," said Wells Fargo spokesperson Kevin Friedlander in a statement.
"It was kind of a shock because I was probably one of the last people to talk to him yesterday before he left," said Fahad Hoda, Gilani's cousin.
On Wednesday, family members and loved ones gathered at the Rockville, Md., home Gilani spent weekends with his wife. He worked in New York and typically spent his weekdays there.
"He was really outgoing," said Hoda. "He loved sports and that's what we really had in common."
Gilani's wife headed to Philadelphia to search for him after he failed to contact her overnight.
According to Gilani's LinkedIn page, he has been with Wells Fargo for about a year. Before joining the company, he had been with Marriott International for eight years.
Gilani leaves behind two adult children.
Gilani's funeral is likely to be in California where he had roots and where one of his children resides.
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.
Rachel Jacobs, a leader in the 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 a 2-year-old son 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 chairwoman 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.
Derrick Griffith, dean of student affairs and enrollment management at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, believed in education — for himself as well as others.
He was a former school principal who founded the City University of New York Preparatory Transitional High School in 2003. He was also the executive director of Groundwork Inc., an organization formed to support young people living in poor urban communities.
Griffith joined Medgar Evers College in 2011 as assistant provost. It was the first of several roles he would fill at the college, where officials said he urged students to pursue education "with vigor."
"Everything about him was symbolic of the highest ... sense of teaching," said College President Rudy Crew. "He was an extraordinary man and we will love him and miss him."
A month ago, the 42-year-old received a doctorate in urban education from the City University of New York Graduate Center. Crew said it was inspiring for students, faculty and staff to see one of their own succeeding to such heights. Griffith's dissertation was on how to reach and mentor young black men, the school said.
The college will hold a moment of silence and pay tribute to Griffith in their upcoming commencement ceremony, Crew said.
Princess Steele, 22, said Griffith inspired her to attend college when she was working at the school but not enrolled. He was always available to students, and he knew how to reach them, whether it was to push or just to listen.
"He just had a passion for education," she said. "He was so invested in it. And he wanted to help people — especially black people — just get ahead and succeed."
Griffith is survived by a son Darryus, who is in his 20s, and his mother, Carlea.
Laura Finamore, 47, was returning to New York City from a memorial service for a college friend's mother, a spokesman for her family said.
The Manhattan resident had texted her mother that she was boarding the train. Her parents saw stories about the crash at about midnight Tuesday and began making calls to area hospitals looking for her.
They got word on Wednesday that the seventh victim of the derailment fit her description, but dental records were needed to confirm it.
Born in Queens, Finamore worked in corporate real estate, and was a senior account director at Cushman & Wakefield.
"Laura was a tenacious deal maker and competitor who never backed down from what she thought was right," her family said in a statement.
"Laura's smile could light up a room and her infectious laughter will be remembered by many for years to come. She was always there when you needed her — with a hug, encouraging words or a pat on the back," the family said.
Finamore is survived by her parents, three brothers, and seven nieces and nephews.
Bob Gildersleeve, who lived near Baltimore, was vice president of a food-safety company called Ecolab, company spokesman Roman Blahoski said.
Gildersleeve had worked for the company for 22 years, most recently as vice president of corporate accounts for institutional business in North America. The company issued a statement saying it had been notified of his death.
"Bob was an exceptional leader and was instrumental to our success. We will greatly miss him, and our thoughts go out to his beloved family members and friends," the company said.
Gildersleeve's family had traveled to Philadelphia after the crash, circulating his photo and information about what he was wearing, hoping that he was only missing.
He had a ticket for the train that crashed Tuesday, his father said, and relatives were unable to get information from Amtrak on his whereabouts.
Gildersleeve was married with two children, ages 16 and 13.
Giuseppe Piras, a wine and olive oil executive from Sardinia, Italy, was in the United States on business, officials said.
The Italian consulate in Philadelphia confirmed that Piras was among the victims. He was 41.
Piras, who hailed from the town of Ittiri on the Mediterranean island, co-founded an olive oil and wine cooperative and was tasked with marketing its goods for export, according to Italian media.
Consul General Andrea Canepari said his family had contacted consulate officials in the U.S. after they were unable to reach Piras by phone. His death was confirmed to consulate officials Wednesday afternoon.
Canepari says he had spoken to the victim's brother to offer assistance.
A number of other foreign travelers have been listed as survivors. They include passengers from Spain, France, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Algeria and Singapore.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.