Victims of the Amtrak derailment: Who they were

Eight people were killed Tuesday when Amtrak train 188, with 243 passengers and crew aboard, derailed in Philadelphia en route from Washington to New York.

Those who died ranged from executives to an educator to a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy who was traveling home. For their families it is, as one said, an "unthinkable tragedy."

Here's what we know about those who lost their lives:

Laura Finamore, 47, New York, N.Y.

Finamore family

Finamore was a real estate executive for Cushman & Wakefield, according to family and her profile. She'd been in the corporate real estate field for 20 years, her family said.

A family spokesman said Finamore was returning to New York from Arlington Cemetery in Washington, where she had attended a memorial service for a college friend's mother, and had texted her mother shortly after boarding.

Finamore was born and raised in Douglaston, N.Y., and graduated from George Washington University with a bachelor's degree in literature.

"Laura's smile could light up a room and her infectious laughter will be remembered by many for years to come," her family said in a statement. "She was always there when you needed her -- with a hug, encouraging words or a pat on the back." They also said Finamore's favorite role was as an aunt to her seven nieces and nephews.

She also is survived by her parents, Cynthia and Richard, and three brothers, Michael, Paul and Peter.

-- Christine Mai-Duc

Jim Gaines, 48, Plainsboro, N.J.

Santos Chaparro / Associated Press

Gaines was an Associated Press video software architect who joined the news service in 1998, the AP said in a statement. The news service called him “a key factor in nearly all of the news agency's video initiatives, including a service providing live video to hundreds of clients worldwide.” He was awarded prizes by the agency celebrating his passion for technology innovation and for his work in developing an online video network.

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

-- Noah Bierman

Abid Gilani, 55, Washington and New York

Gilani was a senior vice president for Wells Fargo's Hospitality Finance Group, the company confirmed Wednesday. In a statement, the company called him a "valued member" of its commercial real estate division.

Gilani was married with two children, a spokeswoman said, and split his time between Washington and New York City.

He graduated from Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada, according to his profile, and held an MBA from the University of Saskatchewan. He previously had worked as an executive for Marriott International and Scotia Capital, according to his profile.

-- Christine Mai-Duc

Bob Gildersleeve, 45, Maryland

Howard Brundrett / Associated Press

Gildersleeve was reported missing after the disaster and family members had traveled to Philadelphia to distribute his photo in hopes of finding him.

Gildersleeve was vice president of corporate accounts in North America for St. Paul, Minn.-based Ecolab. The company confirmed in a statement Thursday that he was among the dead.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague," the company said. "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."

A company spokesman said Gildersleeve had been with Ecolab for 22 years and lived near Baltimore, according to the Associated Press. He was married with two children, ages 16 and 13.



12:55 p.m.: A previous version of this post said Ecolab was based in St. Louis, Minn. It is based in St. Paul.


-- Christine Mai-Duc

Derrick Griffith, 42, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Clareese Hill / Associated Press

Griffith was the dean of student affairs and enrollment management at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. Rudy Crew, the president of the college, called him an "enormous, very positive energy on our campus," and said he had the "full support and adoration" of faculty and students.

In a statement, the college called Griffith a "pillar in the community" who encouraged students to pursue education during his more than 10 years in the field. He had been a school principal, helped found the CUNY Preparatory Transitional High School and headed a group that aimed to help youths in high-poverty communities. Griffith had recently earned a doctorate in urban education from the City University of New York Graduate Center and was to participate in a graduation ceremony next month, college officials said.

-- Christine Mai-Duc

Rachel Jacobs, 39, New York City


Jacobs was chief executive of education technology firm ApprenNet, and she had been appointed to the post in March, according to the company's website. Jacobs was married and had a 2-year-old son, according to a family spokeswoman, and was originally from the Detroit suburbs. She also is survived by her parents, former Michigan state Sen. Gilda Jacobs and John Jacobs, and a sister.

She received an MBA from Columbia University and graduated from Swarthmore College, according to a family spokeswoman and a statement on the ApprenNet website.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the company said Jacobs "was not only a brilliant strategist, but also an extremely kind and loving person.... In addition to being our CEO, Rachel was our friend."

Her family called the derailment an "unthinkable tragedy."

"Rachel was a wonderful mother, daughter, sister, wife and friend," the family said in a statement. "She was devoted to her family, her community and the pursuit of social justice. We cannot imagine life without her."

-- Christine Mai-Duc

Giuseppe Piras, Sardinia, Italy

The Italian Embassy confirmed Thursday that Piras, an Italian citizen, was among those killed in the derailment.

Piras was a wine and olive oil executive, according to the Associated Press. The Italian Consulate in Philadelphia said Piras was in the United States on business and was believed to be from Ittiri, a village on the island of Sardinia.

Piras' age could not immediately be confirmed and was reported as 40 or 41. A spokesman for the Italian Embassy in Washington said Piras had not yet turned 41.

He had called his family shortly before boarding the train but could not be reached after the derailment, according to the Italian consul general.

According to Italian news media, Piras was married and had no children.

-- Christine Mai-Duc

Justin Zemser, 20, Far Rockaway, N.Y.

Associated Press

Zemser was a sophomore at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and was on his way home when the train derailed. He had wanted to be a Navy SEAL since he was 13, his uncle told The Times. He was valedictorian and president of his high school class and captain of his high school football team, according to his uncle, Richard Zemser, and a profile on the Naval Academy's website.

Zemser was the only child of Howard and Susan Zemser. “They took my son very young and it's heartbreaking,” Susan Zemser told The Times on Wednesday by phone.

His mother told WJZ TV in Baltimore, “He was the most wonderful kid. Had a 4.0 GPA.” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Wednesday that “the Navy family is struggling with this,” and called him “a crucial member of this institution.”

-- Noah Bierman and Christine Mai-Duc