8 People Confirmed Dead In Amtrak Train Derailment

May 14, 2015
Originally published on May 14, 2015 9:35 pm
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Transcript

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Today, the death toll in Tuesday's Amtrak derailment went up. Fire crews found another victim in the wreckage, bringing the total number of fatalities to eight. In a few minutes, we'll hear more about mandated safety technology that could have prevented the derailment - the most deadly U.S. train accident in years. First, NPR's Nathan Rott has this report on the day's somber discovery.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Cranes and recovery crews work to remove the last pieces of Amtrak train number 188 in northeastern Philadelphia as the city's fire commissioner, Derrick Sawyer, gave a grim update just a few hundred yards from the site. This morning, the fire department was called to bring their cadaver dog back to the site. Not long after...

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DERRICK SAWYER: The dog hit on a couple of spots, and we were able to find one other passenger in the wreckage.

ROTT: Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter followed.

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MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER: With the recovery and the identification this morning, we believe that we have now accounted for all 243 individuals that we believe were on Amtrak train number 188.

ROTT: Nutter's announcement should hopefully put an end to one of the more tragic elements of an already awful event - the lingering doubt in unknown from some of the train passengers' families. Just last night, family members of Bob Gildersleeve, Jr. - a 45-year-old father of two from Maryland - were standing outside of a hotel in downtown Philadelphia, holding signs, asking if anyone had seen their husband, son, dad.

MARK GILDERSLEEVE: My name's Mark Gildersleeve. Please help me find my dad, and if you know any information, please call these numbers listed.

ROTT: The identities of many of the train's other victims had already trickled out. And they were who you'd expect to be on the nation's busiest rail track - diverse, successful, ambitious. There was 48-year-old Jim Gaines, a video software engineer for the Associated Press who won a geek of the month award in 2012 for his, quote, "tireless dedication and contagious passion." There was 20-year-old Justin Zemser of Queens who was in his second year at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. His mom, Susan Zemser, gave a brief statement after she was told the news, saying that her son was a high school valedictorian.

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SUSAN ZEMSER: He was a loving son, nephew and cousin who was very community-minded.

ROTT: There was Derrick Griffith, a dean at Medgar Evers College who the university called a pillar of the community, and 55-year-old Abid Gilani, who was a member of the Wells Fargo commercial real estate division, who was described by his wife as a kind, family man. There was also 39-year-old Rachel Bale, the chief executive of a Philadelphia-based education technology company. Ellen Winn, who went to high school with Bale in Michigan and crossed paths with her many times in the years since, wrote in an email that Bale was dedicated from her earliest days to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or making the world a better place, and that she truly lived that ideal for her entire life. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says that 43 of the train's passengers remain in hospitals - 18 of them at Temple University. It's not known how many are in critical condition. Nathan Rott, NPR News, Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.