Jewish Midshipman Dead, Tech CEO Missing in Amtrak Derailment

Rachel Jacobs, with her husband and child. Photo credit: JTA
Rachel Jacobs, with her husband and child.
Photo credit: JTA

One Jewish midshipman was killed and a the CEO of Philadelphia tech company is missing after an Amtrak train derailed Tuesday night.

Midshipman Justin Zesmer, from Far Rockaway, N.Y., was one of the seven people killed when Amtrak Northwest Regional train 188 derailed, according to reports. Another 200 were injured.

Rachel Jacobs, the CEO of ApprenNet, a Philadelphia tech company, is among those reported missing.

According to the Naval Academy’s website, Zesmer, 20, was the vice president of the Jewish Midshipman’s club.

“He was his high school’s valedictorian and was just finishing his second year as Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy,” Zesmer’s family said in a statement to the Yeshiva World News. “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.”

Jacobs commuted regularly via Amtrak, friends told reporters. Amtrak has not been able to determine whether she was onboard.

Jacobs reportedly used a 10 pass, instead of a regular ticket, which allows passengers to board at any time.

Karl Okamato, Jacobs’ friend and co-founder of ApprenNet, told CNN Jacobs left a meeting with the intent to board train 188 and no one has heard from her since 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Although commuters are sympathetic to the victims of the derailment, some said they still plan to ride Amtrak.

Samantha Silver, a Washington-based journalist from Baltimore, takes the MARC train to Union Station on a weekly basis.

“I was flabbergasted,” said Silver upon hearing about the accident. “I took the 6:20 p.m. train last night so I probably just missed [train 188].”

For Silver, taking the train isn’t the scary part. What scares her is the idea that a meeting was scheduled to take place only hours after the derailment to decide if Amtrak should receive a $252 million budget cut.

In the wake of the accident, Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) issued statement saying he voted against the 2016 Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill.

Silver believes public infrastructure needs to be as well-funded as possible. Amtrak’s 2013 national report states they had 86,000 riders daily and a total of 31.6 million passengers in the fiscal year.

Amtrak has set up an incident hotline for those who believe their friends or family may have been on regional train 188. That number is 800-523-9101.

Check for the latest updates.

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