WAWAYANDA, N.Y. — Two adults are dead after a charter bus carrying high school band members from Long Island overturned on Interstate 84 in Orange County on Thursday near the town of Wawayanda, about two hours northwest of New York City.
The bus was one of sixand their chaperones. The band — roughly 300 students in total — were all headed to band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania — a beloved tradition for the band. One of the six buses went through the wire barrier, down a 50-foot ravine and overturned.
It happened at around 1:12 p.m., just 40 minutes to their destination.
Authorities held a news conference on the crash Thursday evening. We brought that to you.
Watch: Authorities give update on crash
“A bus that literally tumbled down a 50-foot ravine within minutes. It’s extraordinary,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “While it’s preliminary, it’s likely that a faulty front tire contributed to the accident. Although, again, this is still under investigation. That’s a preliminary determination.”
Hochul said two adults died and five to six students were critically injured. Many others were taken to area hospitals for evaluation.
“There’s a lot of families that need some love tonight, and we extend that from 20 million New Yorkers,” Hochul said. “So let’s keep them in our prayers this evening and as they recover from this horrific, traumatic experience.”
“What started out as an incredibly beautiful day in New York state, our students left Farmingdale High School on the way for a band trip… they’re friends, they’re companions, together,” Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said. “They had a weekend planned of fun and enjoying their musicianship, and unfortunately, the day ended in tragedy for so many.”
“The vehicle operator, Regency Transportation of Nesconset, N.Y., has valid operating authority from the State Department of Transportation and a valid semi-annual inspection. The driver is properly licensed,” New York state’s Department of Transportation said in a statement.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to conduct a safety investigation Friday morning.
Injured being treated, other students head home
“There were 44 passengers on the bus – 40 students, and four adults,” New York State Police Lt. Colonel Richard Mazzone said. He identified the adults who died as 43-year-old Gina Pellettiere, from Massapequa, and 77-year-old Beatrice Ferarri, from Farmingdale.
Pellettiere has been identified as the school’s marching band teacher.
Mazzone said victims were taken to six hospitals.
“I landed on my side. I had to, like, jump out the window,” said 15-year-old Anthony Eugenio, who was on board the bus at the time of the crash. “As soon as I picked my head up, the kid next to me was covered in blood. I saw blood everywhere.”
“The only advice I can give to anybody tonight is hug your children very tight. Life is very precious, and our kids started out today thinking they were going to have a wonderful weekend with their friends,” Blakeman said.
New York State Police said Interstate 84 westbound was closed at Exit 15.
Family reunification was set up at SUNY Orange College. CBS New York’s Shosh Bedrosian’s spotted the buses that were not involved in the crash there. They have since departed, and were headed back to Farmingdale under police escort.
Bus was from Farmingdale High School, headed for band camp
Students from Farmingdale High School told CBS New York’s Jennifer McLogan the bus involved in the crash was carrying ninth graders.
The students were expected to be at the band camp from Thursday to Sunday.
Numerous emergency responders were visible on the scene. Windows on one side of the bus had been smashed out, and a ladder was raised along the side of the bus near the broken windows.
Equipment was being brought in to recover the bus from the ravine, CBS New York photojournalist Don Collins reported. Collins described emergency responders at the scene as being in “recovery mode.” He described at least 20 emergency vehicles at the scene.
“It’s awful to hear about the children involved… my daughter’s involved in band. She’s really upset over it, because band kids, no matter what school they’re in, all band kids have that camraderie,” Middletown resident Laura Lafollette said.