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Naval Academy Midshipman Killed in Philadelphia Amtrak Crash

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train derailment, Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train derailment, Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A U.S. Naval Academy midshipman is among the seven Amtrak passengers who died Tuesday night when the train jumped the track and crashed just north of Philadelphia.

The midshipman was identified Wednesday as Justin Zemser, a midshipman 3rd Class from Far Rockaway, New York. He is listed as a member of the academy's Sprint Football team.

"The midshipman was on leave and enroute to their home of record when the accident occurred," said Jennifer Erickson, a Naval Academy spokesman.

Midshipmen, staff and faculty all were notified of the death on Wednesday morning, and the school is providing grief counseling services and support through their chains of command, academy chaplains and the Midshipmen Development Center, Erickson said.

Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 was heading to New York City from Washington carrying 238 passengers and five crew members when it crashed around 9:30 p.m., according to Amtrak. About 140 people were rushed to area hospitals for evaluation and treatment.

"I speak for the brigade of midshipmen, the faculty and staff when I say we are all completely heartbroken by this," Cmdr. John Schofield, academy spokesman, told the Baltimore Sun.

Among the passengers was former Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, an Iraq War veteran and host of MSNBC's "Taking the Hill," which deals with military and veterans issues and Washington politics. Murphy was in the café car, one of the cars that flipped onto its side when the crash occurred.

In Washington on Wednesday, President Obama issued a statement saying he and First Lady Michelle Obama were "shocked and deeply saddened" over the crash, loss of lives and injuries.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those we lost last night, and to the many passengers who today begin their long road to recovery," he said.

Obama also noted the importance of Amtrak rail along its Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, calling it "a way of life for many," with the crash "a tragedy that touches us all."

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee began weighting legislation to cut Amtrak funding by about 18 percent next year, or about $251 million.

The measure includes $1.1 billion for Amtrak. Obama had requested $2.5 billion, larger than any of his previous proposals.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com

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