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.
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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.READ MORE: Town Of Hempstead Beaches Suspend Swimming After More Shark Sightings Off Long Island
“[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.