All 8 Victims Killed In Amtrak Derailment Identified
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Eight people were killed in an Amtrak train derailment Tuesday night in Philadelphia. They include an Associated Press employee, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, a Wells Fargo executive, an Ecolab executive, a college administrator and the chief executive officer of an educational startup.
Here is more on the victims:
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.
Justin Zemser, a popular student leader and athlete, was on a break from the U.S. Naval Academy and heading home to Rockaway Beach, Queens 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 U.S. Naval Academy's superintendent, Vice Adm. Walter "Ted'' Carter, said Zemser was a talented and highly respected young man with a tremendously bright future.
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.
"Just from interacting with him on a daily basis you realize that there's something special about this young man," head coach Maj. Kavan Lake said.
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.
Classmates said nobody worked harder or laughed louder, CBS2's Dick Brennan reported.
"He was always smiling, always laughing. He had an aura about him. I can't remember a bad memory I had with him," a friend 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.''
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 eight 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, the 55-year-old 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.
His wife, Diana, described him as a kind and wonderful man. She said she started driving to Philadelphia Wednesday morning before knowing for sure that her husband was dead.
"[I] found out as I got closer to the city limit that I was needed for identification," she said. "Very tragic day, very sad day for many people."
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.
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 formerly was a school principal, and in 2003 he founded the City University of New York Preparatory Transitional High School in the Bronx. He also was executive director of Groundwork. Inc., an organization formed to support young people living in high poverty urban communities.
More On Amtrak Derailment Victims
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.''
"If there's a medal of honor to be given in public education he would be the poster child for that," Medgar Evers President Dr. Rudy Crew told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond. "What we all loved about him was that he did it with such graciousness and such ease that it exuded from just who he was as a person."
A month ago, the 42-year-old earned a doctorate of philosophy in urban education from the City University of New York Graduate Center and was a month shy of receiving his degree.
"We are hoping that we can work with the CUNY graduate school in making sure that he can get his degree presented to him posthumously," Crew told 1010 WINS. "He finished his dissertation, had earned his PhD, but simply was awaiting the day to walk across the stage."
Griffith's love for teaching was a gift that kept on giving.
"I have to finish school now. That man did everything he could do to keep you in school, to keep you motivated, to keep you eating," Jilberto Gumbs said.
A special tribute will be planned at the school's June graduation in Griffith's honor, Crew said.
As CBS2's Weijia Jiang reported, a 13-year-old boy earlier this week issued a heartfelt video plea that someone find his missing father. That plea ended in heartache.
The boy's father, Bob Gildersleeve, was traveling for work as a VP at a food safety company.
Gildersleeve, who's from Maryland, worked for Ecolab for 22 years, most recently as the company's vice president of Corporate Accounts for our Institutional business in North America.
"We have been notified that our associate, Bob Gildersleeve, lost his life in the Amtrak train derailment Tuesday night. We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague," Doug Baker, Ecolab Chairman and CEO, said in a statement released Thursday. "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.
Gildersleeve is married and has two children, ages 16 and 13.
"He was a remarkable dad to our daughter Ryan and our son Marc. Our hearts are broken and we can't imagine a life without him," his wife said in a statement.
Laura Finamore, 47, worked in corporate real estate, most recently serving as managing director of Cushman & Wakefield's corporate occupier and investor services group.
She was born and raised in Douglaston, Queens, and graduated from Benjamin Cardozo High School and George Washington University.
"Laura was an incredibly loving and giving person, touching many people each and every day through her generous spirit, thoughtfulness and compassion for others," her family said in a statement. "She will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved her."
Finamore is survived by her parents, three brothers, their wives and several nieces and nephews.
Giuseppe Piras, who was from Ittiri, Italy, was identified as one of the victims, the consulate general of Italy in Philadelphia confirmed Thursday. The 41-year-old was a wine and olive oil salesman and was in the United States on a business trip.
His family is reportedly well known in his hometown, where they own an olive oil business and a coffee bar.
His uncle told reporters that Piras spoke to his father on the phone just before boarding the train and promised to call him later.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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