Home > News & Advice > Culture & History > Remembering the Victims of the Philadelphia Amtrak Train Crash

Remembering the Victims of the Philadelphia Amtrak Train Crash

by Legacy Staff

Remembering the eight who died in the Philadelphia derailment of Amtrak train 188.

When Amtrak train 188 derailed just north of Philadelphia the night of May 12, 2015, eight people were killed and more than 200 injured. Grim scenes of the wreckage showed mangled train cars, bruised and bloodied passengers. All of the train’s cars left the track and tipped at varying severe angles. One car was crushed almost beyond recognition.

Like many people in the United States, I awoke the next morning to news of the terrible crash. I felt more of a connection to this train tragedy than to others because I know that route well. Having lived in both Philly and New York, I’ve traveled that stretch of track north of Philly many times.


Then came the horrifying news from a Swarthmore College classmate: our fellow Swattie, Rachel Jacobs ’97, was missing. It was believed that she had boarded the train Tuesday night at 30th Street Station, on her way home to New York where she lived with her husband and 2-year-old son, from her new job in Philly as CEO of a tech start-up. Late Wednesday we found out that she had indeed been on the train, and that she didn’t make it. Rachel was one of the dead.

Today Rachel is being mourned by her family and friends, classmates and colleagues, and the entire Detroit Nation diaspora.

And Rachel was not alone. There are many families mourning today, in the U.S. and in Canada. Join us in remembering all who died in the Philly Amtrak crash.

Real estate executive and Queens native Laura Finamore

Finamore, 47, was a senior account director at the firm of Cushman & Wakefield in Manhattan.

“Laura’s smile could light up a room and her infectious laughter will be remembered by many for years to come,” said her family in a statement. “She was always there when you needed her — with a hug, encouraging words or a pat on the back.” 

Jim Gaines, AP tech staffer once honored as “Geek of the Month”

Associated Press video software architect Jim Gaines was known for his “tireless dedication” to technological innovation. The 48-year-old father of two was on his way home to Plainsboro, New Jersey, after attending meetings at AP’s office in Washington, D.C. 

Wells Fargo executive Abid Gilani was returning from funeral

Abid Gilani, a 55-year-old senior vice president, was a passenger on the Northeast Regional Train 188 when it veered off the track in Philadelphia. Gilani and his mother from Toronto had attended funeral services for his uncle in Virginia, and he had to return to New York City for work, a cousin told the Daily News.

Ecolab vice president Robert Gildersleeve Jr.

Bob Gildersleeve, a vice president at water technology and services provider Ecolab, was traveling to New York from his home in Maryland. Gildersleeve’s humor, enthusiasm for life, and love for his family were remembered during an emotional funeral. Hundreds of people from multiple states filled the church to say goodbye to the 45-year-old father of two who read emotional tributes to their dad.

Derrick Griffith, CUNY college dean who recently completed his Ph.D.

Darryus Griffith’s voice quivered Tuesday as he talked about his father and hero, a 43-year-old administrator at City University of New York Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. 

“My dad was everything to me,” he said. “My dad was a great person. He was everything I’m not.”

Rachel Jacobs, CEO of tech start-up ApprenNet

Jacobs, who took over as CEO of the online education company in March, was planning to relocate to Philadelphia after ApprenNet closed its first round of funding and expanded its team. A native of metro Detroit, Jacobs also founded Detroit Nation, a network of Detroit expats invested in the area’s growth. 

Italian wineseller and avid cyclist Giuseppe Piras

Piras, 40, was traveling to New York City to sell wine and olive oil on behalf of a cooperative in his native Sardinia. He was identified after his worried family contacted the Italian consulate in Philadelphia and sent them his picture.

Justin Zemser: The Best of America

Just 20 years old, Zemser was returning home to Far Rockaway, New York, from the Naval Academy in Annapolis where he was a midshipman just starting his Second Class (junior) year.


More Stories