ORANGE COUNTY, N.Y. (PIX11) — A faulty tire may have contributed to the deadly bus crash in Orange County that killed two people and hurt 42 others Thursday afternoon, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
A charter bus carrying 40 students and four adults from Farmingdale High School on Long Island to a band camp in Pennsylvania crashed on Interstate 84 just outside of Middletown at 1:12 p.m., police said.
Two adults were killed and five students were hospitalized in critical condition, officials said.
The high school’s band director, Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, and a retired teacher Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale, were identified as the two people who died in the crash.
A preliminary investigation indicates that a faulty front tire may have contributed to the crash, Hochul said. However, the governor stressed that the crash is still under investigation.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to investigate, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said. Hochul said she sent the Division of Homeland Security to also help local authorities with the investigation.
“The NTSB, in coordination with the New York State Police, is sending a team to conduct a safety investigation into Thursday’s rollover crash on Interstate 84 in Wawayanda, New York. Team will arrive on scene Friday morning.” the NTSB said on social media.
I-84 is closed at exit 15 while authorities investigate the scene. It’s expected to remain closed for several hours.
Video taken from news helicopters showed the bus lying on its side in trees and shrubs yards off the road in the median between the westbound and eastbound sides of the highway. Hochul said the bus tumbled down a 50-foot ravine.
“Imagine the fear, the screams in the aftermath when these high school students – many of them freshmen – were surrounded by this chaos,” Hochul said. “But they endured, they were strong, and within 45 minutes … these young people and adults were brought to safety.”
Farmingdale student Anthony Eugenio, 15, 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. Then he felt himself tumbling — how many times he can’t recall — 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.”
He crawled out of the overturned bus through a window, dazed but only scraped and bruised. Once outside, he found his backpack, which had been thrown from the wreck, and his missing shoe.
Eugenio, who spoke to The Associated Press from a car as his mother drove him home, said his thought as the bus turned over and over was “This can’t be real.”
Injured students were sent to a reunification center at the SUNY Orange campus on Conkling Avenue in Middletown to meet up with their parents, officials said.
The bus was one of six buses carrying students from Farmingdale High School to the band camp in Greeley in northeastern Pennsylvania, according to the school district. Students from the other five buses headed back to Farmingdale High School.
Bruce Blakeman, the executive of Nassau County where Farmingdale is located, expressed his sympathy to the families of those involved.
“What started out as an incredibly beautiful day in New York State … they had a weekend plan of fun … unfortunately the day ended in tragedy for so many,” Blakeman said. “Our hearts go out to all of the families of Farmingdale High School.”
Finn Hoogensen is a digital journalist who has covered local news for more than five years. He has been with PIX11 News since 2022. See more of his work here.