WAWAYANDA, NY – An accident involving a charter bus carrying a high school band from Long Island resulted in two fatalities and numerous injuries, according to state officials. The bus, which was traveling on I-84 near Wawayanda, veered off the highway and down an embankment around 1 p.m. on Thursday. Governor Kathy Hochul suggested that a defective front tire may have caused the accident, but investigations are ongoing.
State police confirmed the deaths of two adults in the crash. The bus was carrying 40 students and four adults when it plunged into a 50-foot ravine. Five students were critically injured and transported to local hospitals. The deceased were identified as Gina Pellettiere, 43, a music teacher from Massapequa, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77, a retired teacher from Farmingdale.
Most of the students on the bus were taken to six different hospitals in the area. The majority of the students were freshmen, according to Governor Hochul. The bus was one of six transporting members of the Farmingdale High School band to a band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania. The accident occurred approximately 30 miles from the Pine Forest Camp, their intended destination.
The highway was closed at exit 15A for accident investigation, with westbound lanes also closed. A reunification center was established at Orange County Community College in Middletown. Students from the crashed bus were transported there, while students from the other five buses returned to Long Island later in the day.
Aerial footage of the scene showed the bus on its side with a warped roof. Rescuers used a ladder to reach the windows. Governor Hochul expressed her sympathy for the students, many of whom were freshmen, who experienced the chaos of the crash.
The annual band camp trip in September is a tradition for the suburban high school, which has approximately 1,700 students. The marching band, color guard, and kick line team, along with adult chaperones, typically attend.
Farmingdale student Anthony Eugenio, 15, described waking up to the sensation of the bus tipping and tumbling. He managed to escape through a window, finding his backpack and shoe that had been thrown from the wreckage.
The bus is owned by Regency Transportation, based in Nesconset on Long Island. Despite a few issues in the past two years, the company has a satisfactory rating from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The cause of the bus veering off I-84 is still unknown, and the vehicle’s specific maintenance record is not yet available. However, the company’s overall record shows about 40 inspections over the past 24 months.