By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Naval Academy midshipman is among the dead after an Amtrak train traveling from Washington to New York derails in Philadelphia Tuesday night.

Rick Ritter speaks to family members of the Maryland victims.

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Destruction that’s hard to take in. Amtrak 188 tossed like a toy train in Philadelphia, leaving at least seven passengers dead.

“I know my son was well known, and he’ll be in everybody’s heart forever,” said Susan Zemser.

One of those passengers was a midshipman at the Naval Academy. A sophomore with big dreams, 20-year-old Justin Zemser played wide receiver for Navy’s Sprint Football team.

“He was absolutely wonderful. Everybody looked up to my son,” said Susan Zemser.

The 4.0 student hoped to become a Navy Seal. He was on leave, heading back home to Rockaway Beach, New York to see his mom—her only son.

“He was supposed to come home last night at 10:30 p.m. And when I went online to see if everything was on time, they said there was a derailment,” said Zemser’s mother. “All night I kept calling hospitals and nothing. And then we got the phone call this morning that my son has passed.”

Midshipman Justin Zemser, member of Navy Sprint Football team, among those killed in Amtrak 188 derailment

Midshipman Justin Zemser, member of Navy Sprint Football team, among those killed in Amtrak 188 derailment

In Annapolis Wednesday, a solemn atmosphere around Navy’s campus. Teachers–in awe.

“It’s just tragic. These kids are going away on their breaks, and the guys that have gone through a couple years so far have really worked hard, and it’s sad to see something like this happen,” said Deke Johnson, teacher at the Naval Academy.

Many left wondering why.

“To lose a child–just an awful thing to happen,” Debra Brown said.

In a speech Wednesday morning, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus identified Zemser as the midshipman killed:

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“I know that the brigade, the Navy family is struggling with this,” he said. “Our thoughts, our prayers go out to family, friends and to the entire brigade for losing Justin Zemser, a crucial member of this institution.”

The USNA released this statement following the death:

The Naval Academy is deeply saddened to report that a midshipman was named as one of the passengers who lost their life in the AMTRAK train which crashed in north Philadelphia at approximately 9:30 p.m. last night.

The midshipman was on leave and en route to their home of record when the accident occurred.

The Brigade of Midshipman, staff and faculty were notified of the midshipman’s death this morning. Out of respect for the family’s privacy, the identity of the midshipman is being withheld for 24 hours after next of kin notification.

The Naval Academy is supporting the midshipman’s family, friends, and loved ones during this time of grief.  Grief counseling services and support are available to midshipmen, faculty and staff through chains of command, our chaplains, and the Midshipmen Development Center.

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Abid Gilani, 55, was also killed in the derailment. Gilani has lived in the Maryland area while working as a senior vice president with Wells Fargo, and still has family here in Rockville.

Officials won’t say how many passengers are still missing, but we know one from an Elkridge neighborhood never came home.

Ecolab confirmed 45-year-old Bob Gildersleeve, a vice president with their company, is still unaccounted for. His family pleading for help Wednesday in Philadelphia.

“My name is Mark Gildersleeve. Please help me find my dad. And if you know any information, please call these numbers listed,” his son said.

Neighbors in Elkridge are hoping for a miracle.

“Everybody has family of some sort,” said one neighbor. “So just not knowing what’s going on is probably the worst part of it.”

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Grief counselors will be on hand at the Naval Academy for those in need.

Rick Ritter