DETROIT (CBS DETROIT/AP) – Michigan native, Rachel Jacobs, daughter of longtime Michigan Democratic political figure and ex-state Sen. Gilda Jacobs, has died in the crash of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia.

Jacobs grew up in suburban Detroit and was chief executive of Philadelphia-based ApprenNet, an education startup.

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The family of Jacobs released a statement to WWJ Newsradio 950 Wednesday evening:

“This is an unthinkable tragedy. Rachel was a wonderful mother, daughter, sister, wife and friend. She was devoted to her family, her community and the pursuit of social justice. We cannot imagine life without her. We respectfully ask for privacy so that we can begin the process of grieving.”

A friend told Eyewitness News that Jacobs texted her husband around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday stating that she was on the train. A message on Twitter noted Rachel was among the missing:

The 39-year-old Jacobs was in Philadelphia for a meeting Tuesday. She commuted to Philadelphia twice a week from her home in New York where she lived with her husband and 2-year-old son.

The engineer at the controls applied the emergency brakes moments before the deadly crash but managed to slow the train to only 102 mph when the locomotive’s black box stopped recording data, said Robert Sumwalt of the National Transportation Safety Board. The speed limit just ahead of the bend is 80 mph, he said.

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The Amtrak train that crashed in Philadelphia, killing at least seven people, was hurtling at 106 mph before it ran off the rails along a sharp curve where the speed limit is just 50 mph, federal investigators said Wednesday

Russ Quimby, a retired rail crash investigator with the safety board, told the New York Times: “When you are depending entirely on a human being, the engineer in this case, then there is an opening for a human error and a tragedy like this one. If you have no system to regulate the speed, then that’s the core failure.”

The engineer, who name was not released, refused to give a statement to law enforcement Wednesday and left a police precinct with a lawyer. Sumwalt said federal accident investigators hope to interview him but will give him a day or two to recover from the “traumatic event.”

Local Investigators: Train In Deadly Wreck In Philadelphia Was Going Over 100 MPH

More than 200 people aboard the Washington-to-New York train were injured in the wreck, which took place in a decayed industrial neighborhood not far from the Delaware River shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday. It was the nation’s deadliest train accident in nearly seven years.

Award-winning AP video software architect Jim Gaines, a 48-year-old father of two, was among the dead. Also killed was Justin Zemser, a 20-year-old Naval Academy midshipman from New York City.

Amtrak carries 11.6 million passengers a year along its busy Northeast Corridor, which runs between Washington and Boston.

 

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