A tragic accident occurred on Thursday afternoon when a charter bus carrying high school students to a band camp veered off a highway and rolled down an embankment in Wawayanda, New York. The bus was one of six in a caravan taking the students from Farmingdale High School on Long Island to a camp in Pennsylvania. Two adults, including the band director, died in the crash and several others were seriously injured.
Tire Failure Suspected as Cause of Crash
According to Governor Kathy Hochul, a tire failure may have been to blame for the bus going off the road. The bus tumbled 50 feet down a steep slope in a wide median between the eastbound and westbound lanes of Interstate 84. The crash happened around 1:20 p.m., about 30 minutes away from the destination of Pine Forest Camp. News helicopter footage showed tire tracks on the roadway and a path of ripped-up grass and shrubs on the embankment. The bus came to rest on its left side, its roof warped. A ladder allowed rescuers to reach the windows.
Victims Identified as Band Director and Retired Teacher
The two adults who died in the crash were identified as Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale. Pellettiere was the band director at Farmingdale High School and had been with the district for 18 years. She was described as a passionate and dedicated teacher who loved her students and music. Ferrari was a retired teacher who had taught at Farmingdale for 35 years. She was a chaperone on the trip and a longtime supporter of the band program.
Five Students in Critical Condition, Others Treated for Minor Injuries
Five of the 44 passengers on board were hospitalized in critical condition, according to state police. They were airlifted to nearby trauma centers for treatment. The rest of the passengers, mostly freshmen students, suffered minor injuries such as cuts, bruises, and sprains. They were taken to local hospitals or reunited with their families at a nearby fire station. Some of the students recounted the terrifying moments of the crash, saying they felt a thud and then started tumbling down the hill. They crawled out of the overturned bus through windows or emergency exits.
Band Camp Trip Was an Annual Tradition for Farmingdale High School
The trip to band camp was an annual tradition for Farmingdale High School, which has around 1,700 students. Members of the band, color guard, and the school’s kick line team attended, as well as adult chaperones. During some years, more than 300 students went on the trip to rehearse and have fun in rural Pennsylvania. The trip was supposed to last until Sunday, but it was cut short by the tragic accident. The other five buses in the caravan turned back after hearing about the crash.
Community Mourns Loss of Lives and Prays for Recovery of Injured
The Farmingdale community was shocked and saddened by the news of the crash. A candlelight vigil was held on Thursday night at Farmingdale High School, where hundreds of people gathered to pay tribute to the victims and pray for the survivors. The school district also offered counseling services to students and staff who needed support. Many expressed their condolences and solidarity on social media, using hashtags such as #FarmingdaleStrong and #PrayForFarmingdale.