Two adults were killed and more than 40 others were injured when a bus carrying students to a band camp overturned in New York state Thursday afternoon, officials said.
Five students are in critical condition after a bus carrying 40 students and four adults from Long Island’s Farmingdale School District plunged 50 feet into a ravine, state officials said at a press conference Thursday evening.
New York Governor Cathy Hochul said families are grieving.
“We have families, we have a school, a school district, a county and really an entire state grieving at this time,” he said.
The fatal crash happened around 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, were killed in the crash, which Hochul said may have been caused by a front tire failure.
He emphasized that the findings are preliminary. The National Transportation Safety Board, along with the New York State Police, will conduct the investigation.
Farmingdale students and chaperones went to a band camp in Pennsylvania, a district spokeswoman said.
Pellettiere was the band director and Ferrari was a chaperone and “the heart and soul of our marching band program,” the Farmingdale school district said in a letter to parents. 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, said her daughter, Dr. Angela Ferrari-Altieri.
Ferrari and Pelletier became friends, and when another teacher retired, he was asked to be a band camp chaperone and accepted.
“My mom was like this grandmother, and the kids could feel comfortable and good talking to her,” Ferrari-Altieri said. “She became Grandma Bee.”
Edward Hoeschler, the parent of a Farmingdale High School junior who rode another bus to band camp, became emotional as he described learning his daughter was fine.
Hoschler met a chaperone and her daughter Thursday at the reunion center.
“To see her face, it was … nothing a parent would want to go through,” Hoschler said, her voice breaking. “When you see that they’re okay, immediately think of everyone on that bus.”
Hoschler said she was stunned not knowing if her daughter was on the bus that crashed.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “It’s kind of numb. … It hits you later, and at first, it doesn’t register.
Hoschler said the weekend trip is an annual event that students and parents look forward to. About 300 students plan to attend, Hoschler said.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman struggled to understand how quickly a happy event could turn grim.
“The one piece of advice I can give to anybody tonight is to hug your kids really tight,” he told a news conference. “Life is precious. … Our kids left today thinking they were going to have a wonderful weekend with their friends.
School will be open Friday and counselors will be available, the school district said in a letter to the community.