A charter bus carrying high school marching band members on their way to summer camp crashed off Interstate 84 northwest of New York City, killing two adults and injuring multiple students, police said.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said at least five people remain in critical condition. Speaking at a Thursday evening news conference, officials said there were 44 people onboard the bus when a front tire failed. The bus careened off the highway, down a 50-foot embankment and came to rest on its side in bushes and trees, the governor said.
"There's a lot of families who need some love tonight," Hochul said. "Today was a day of terror for 44 passengers on a private coach line."
Orange County marching band bus accident kills two
The crash occurred around 1:12 p.m. near the town of Wawayanda, about 45 miles northwest of New York City. A federal NTSB team has been dispatched to assist with the investigation. Hochul said the tire is preliminarily believed to be a contributing factor but the investigation is ongoing.
She asked New Yorkers and the country as a whole to imagine the fear and panic the students faced, and how bravely the survivors acted as they were assisted out of the bus via ladders.
Authorities identified the two adults who died in the crash as retired teacher Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale and the high school's band director, 43-year-old Gina Pellettiere of Massapequa.
“Gina was the highly regarded and adored wind ensemble and marching band director at Farmingdale HS, and an active member of the music education community across our county, region and state,” said the Nassau Music Educators Association, for which Pellettiere served on the executive board. “Her warm smile, infectious laugh, incredible story telling ability, passion for life and talent at her craft will be greatly missed by all who knew her personally and professionally.”
Anthony Eugenio, a 15-year-old Farmingdale student, said he was asleep on the bus when he felt a thud and awoke to what he thought was a dream or nightmare. The bus felt as if it was tipping, and then he felt himself tumbling as he tried to pull his sweatshirt hood from over his eyes.
“Then everyone was yelling,” he said. “The kid next to me was covered in blood. I saw blood everywhere.”
Dazed, Eugenio crawled out of the overturned bus through a window with scrapes and bruises. Once outside, he found his backpack, which had been thrown in the wreck, and his missing shoe.
Eugenio said he thought as the bus turned over: “This can’t be real.”
Middletown, New York site of band camp crash family reunification center
The bus was one of six in a caravan carrying students from Farmingdale High School on Long Island to a band camp in Greeley, in northeastern Pennsylvania. The five other buses took their passengers to a nearby family reunification center, where the students were given a chance to meet with grief counselors before being driven back home.
The students are known as "Farmingdale Dalers."
“Students will have the opportunity to stretch and meet with grief counselors,” according to a message from the district. “Once cleared, they will be returning to Farmingdale High School.”
According to the marching band's schedule, the students were to have spent a long weekend at Pine Forest Camp in Greeley, Penn., accompanied by parents and other chaperones riding the buses with them. The annual camp visit is part of the band's practices for performances at football games.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," state patrol Lt. Colonel Richard Mazzone said. He declined to answer questions from reporters, citing the ongoing investigation.
According to the bus operator, Regency Buses of Long Island, each bus seats 56 passengers. Video from the scene appeared to show at least two other buses stopped on the interstate close to the crash site.
Regency did not respond to a message from USA TODAY seeking comment.
Where is Farmingdale, New York?
Farmingdale is a one-square-mile village on New York's Long Island within the town of Oyster Bay in Nassau County. The Farmingdale High School has about 1,700 students and in 2021 and 2022 was ranked as one of the nation's best high schools by U.S. News & World Report. Census data shows the village has a population of about 8,500 people.
How many bus crashes are there each year?
There are on average over 100 fatalities every year in the United States caused by accidents involving school buses, or other types of buses transporting school children, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.
Between 2007 and 2016, there were 1,282 killed, about 70% of which were in other vehicles involved in accidents. Just 9% of the fatalities were occupants on a school transportation vehicle.
Contributing: Sarah Eames of the Press & Sun-Bulletin, part of the USA TODAY Network, and the Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Two dead, several injured after bus carrying band crashes in New York