Two adults are dead and more than 40 other people are injured after a bus carrying students headed to band camp rolled over in New York state Thursday afternoon, officials said.
Five students were in critical condition after the bus, which was transporting 40 students and four adults from Long Island’s Farmingdale School District, fell down a 50-foot ravine, state officials said at a news conference Thursday evening.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said families are grieving.
“We have families, we have a school, a school district, a county and indeed an entire state that is grieving at this time,” she said.
The deadly accident happened about 1:15 p.m. on Interstate 84 in Wawayanda, about 75 miles northwest of New York City.
Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale, died in the crash, which Hochul said may have happened because of faulty front tire.
She stressed that the findings were preliminary. The National Transportation Safety Board, in coordination with the New York State Police, will investigate.
The Farmingdale students and chaperones were headed to band camp in Pennsylvania, a district spokesperson said.
Pellettiere was band director and Ferrari was a chaperone and “the heart and soul of our marching band program,” the Farmingdale School District said a letter to parents sent to NBC New York.
Ferrari was a teacher for 36 years, 32 of which she spent at Farmingdale High School, and her 10th-grade global studies class was across the hall from the band room, her daughter, Dr. Angela Ferrari-Aldieri, said.
Ferrari and Pellettiere became friends, and when another teacher retired, she was asked to become a band camp chaperone and accepted.
“My mom was like this grandma, and the kids were able to feel comfortable and feel good talking to her,” Ferrari-Aldieri said. “She became Grandma Bea.”
Edward Hoschler, a parent of a Farmingdale High School junior who rode in another bus headed to the band camp, was emotional when he described learning his daughter was OK.
Hoschler was a chaperone and met his daughter at the reunification center Thursday.
“To see her face, it’s … nothing a parent wants to go through,” Hoschler said, his voice cracking. “Once you see that they’re OK, then you just think immediately everyone else, the people who were on that bus.”
Hoschler said not knowing whether his daughter was on the bus that crashed stunned him.
“It’s just surreal,” he said. “It’s just kind of numb. … It hits you later on, like, initially, it doesn’t register.”
Hoschler said the weekend trip is an annual event students and parents look forward to. About 300 students planned to attend, Hoschler said.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman struggled to make sense of how a joyous event could turn grim so quickly.
“The one advice I can give anybody tonight is hug your children very tight,” he said at the news conference. “Life is precious. … Our kids started out today thinking they were going to have a wonderful weekend with their friends.”
School is open on Friday and counselors will be available, the school district said in the letter to the community.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism