Navy midshipman, AP staffer among confirmed dead in aftermath of Amtrak train derailment

Justin Zemser, a 21-year-old midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy (left) and Jim Gaines, a 48-year-old video software architect with the Associated Press were among those killed in Tuesday night's Amtrak derailment in Port Richmond. (Images via Facebook and AP)

Justin Zemser, a 21-year-old midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy (left) and Jim Gaines, a 48-year-old video software architect with the Associated Press were among those killed in Tuesday night's Amtrak derailment in Port Richmond. (Images via Facebook and AP)

Seven people were killed in an Amtrak train derailment Tuesday night in Philadelphia. One victim was an Associated Press employee. Another was a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. The others have not yet been publicly identified.

Details are starting to emerge about those who died in Tuesday night’s Amtrak derailment in Port Richmond.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the names of two of the seven people killed had been confirmed by family members or places of employment.

Justin Zemser, a 21-year-old U.S. Naval Academy midshipman, was heading home on leave to Far Rockaway, NY when he was killed in the Amtrak derailment.

Zemser was a sophomore wide receiver on the Navy’s Spirit football team. He is survived by parents Howard and Susan who, on her Facebook page, posted video of a trip her son “and the Navy crew” took to Israel on Spring Break.

Wrote his relative Michael Zemser on Facebook, “This is a horrific loss for all of us. Justin was and will always be the love in our lives. Anyone who met him loved him immediately.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a “RIP Justin Zemser” page “was made in memory of Navy Midshipman Justin Zemser” on Facebook.

The Yeshiva World News shared a statement from Zemser’s family on Wednesday afternoon:

Our son was Midshipman Justin Zemser. He was born on March 25th in 1995. He was his high school’s valedictorian and was just finishing his 2nd year as Midshipman at the United States Naval ACademy.

He was a loving son, Nephew and cousin, who was very community minded.

This tragedy has shocked us in the worst way and we wish to spend this time grieving with our close family and friends. At this time we ask for privacy from the media.

The Naval Academy also issued a statement about the loss, without identifying Zemser by name:

The Naval Academy is deeply saddened to report that a midshipman was named as one of the passengers who lost their life in the AMTRAK train which crashed in north Philadelphia at approximately 9:30 p.m. last night.

The midshipman was on leave and en route to their home of record when the accident occurred.

The Brigade of Midshipman, staff and faculty were notified of the midshipman’s death this morning.

Out of respect for the family’s privacy, the identity of the midshipman is being withheld for 24 hours after next of kin notification.

The Naval Academy is supporting the midshipman’s family, friends, and loved ones during this time of grief. Grief counseling services and support are available to midshipmen, faculty and staff through chains of command, our chaplains, and the Midshipmen Development Center.

The second victim officially identified was Jim Gaines, a 48-year-old father of two heading home from Washington D.C. to Plainsboro, NJ.

He is survived by his wife Jacqueline, 16-year-old son Oliver and 11-year-old daughter Anushka.

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.”

In an email to WHYY’s Laura Benshoff, AP staffer Paul Cheung, who was on the train, offered his “deepest sympathy and condolences to Jim’s family and friends.”

Paul Colford — director of media relations for the Associated Press — shared with NewsWorks a link to their story which touched on Gaines’ career:

Gaines joined the AP in 1998 and 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.

Gaines won AP’s “Geek of the Month” award in May 2012 for his “tireless dedication and contagious passion” to technological innovation.

He was part of a team that won the AP Chairman’s Prize in 2006 for developing the agency’s Online Video Network.

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