2 killed, dozens hurt when bus carrying LI students to band camp overturns in Orange County

WAWAYANDA, Orange County (WABC) — Investigators are looking into whether a blown front tire may have caused a charter bus to careen off a New York highway and tumble down an embankment Thursday, killing two adults and hurting dozens of others, officials said.

The bus, carrying students from Farmingdale High School in Nassau County on Long Island, was headed to band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania.

The crash happened westbound on I-84 in Wawayanda, Orange County at 1:20 p.m., only about 30 minutes from its destination, the Pine Forest Camp.

There were 40 students and four adults on board the bus at the time of the crash.

Two adults, 43-year-old Farmingdale High School band director Gina Pellettiere and 77-year-old retired social studies teacher Beatrice Ferarri, were killed.

Five students remain hospitalized in critical condition.

I-84 opened to traffic Friday morning, as the NTSB, in coordination with the New York State Police, will conduct a safety investigation into the crash.

Farmingdale student Anthony Eugenio, 15, was asleep on the bus when he felt a thud and awoke to what he thought was a dream or nightmare.

“I thought it was a dream until I could feel like the pain in my leg,” he said. “The kid next to me was covered in blood. I saw blood everywhere.”

Eugenio said he crawled out of the overturned bus through a window, dazed but only scraped and bruised. Once outside, he found his backpack, which had been thrown from the wreck, and his missing shoe.

Governor Kathy Hochul said the bus tumbled 50 feet down the steep slope in a wide median between the eastbound and westbound lanes of the highway. The bus came to rest on its left side, its roof warped. A ladder allowed rescuers to reach the windows.

Victims were transported to six area hospitals, including Westchester County Medical Center and Garnet Health Medical Center in Wallkill.

During a briefing Thursday night, New York officials had a somber message in wake of the crash.

“The only advice I can give to anybody tonight is hug your children very tight,” said Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

Many of the 40 students on the bus were freshmen, Hochul said. “They endured. They were strong,” she said.

Preliminary information indicates a blown front tire may have caused the driver to lose control of the bus which rolled down the embankment.

Westbound lanes were closed at exit 15 for the investigation Thursday night, as recovery crews dragged the hulking wreckage of the doomed bus, from the ravine. Two massive tow trucks were slowly pulling the bus back to the road.

State officials said all children who were on the bus have been accounted for.

The injured students who did not require hospitalized were being taken to a community building for reunification with parents.

The bus, owned by Regency Transportation in Nesconset, was one of six in a caravan carrying students from Farmingdale High School.

Students on the other buses stopped off at a community college for a break and met with counselors before heading back to Long Island.

Gov. Kathy Hochul released a statement on the tragedy, saying, “We are grateful for the first responders whose speedy action saved lives and we will continue to support them however necessary. Our hearts are with all who are impacted by this horrific situation.”

Students and faculty members at Farmingdale High School were shaken following the tragic events that unfolded on Thursday.

“My niece is on one of the other buses, she’s okay. It’s terrifying,” Howitt Middle School teacher Donna Baltch said. “These kids go on a trip to have fun, this is something that they look forward to all year, and these poor teachers, these chaperones, I’m hearing mixed things, we don’t know if they’re okay. Right now, we are just praying and hoping that they’re okay.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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