ORANGE COUNTY, N.Y. (PIX11) — Five buses filled with band students returned to Farmingdale High School Thursday night. Tragically, one never made it home after crashing upstate.

“It feels like stuff that only happens in movies; it feels completely unreal,” said senior Janae McKoy.

With sadness in their hearts, parents and students lined the streets leading up to campus in solidarity with those killed or injured.

“I have been consoling my kids. They’ve been hysterical thinking it could have even been them,” said Yolanda Aponte.

One by one, students reunited with and hugged their parents, back from an ill-fated weekend camping trip to Pennsylvania.

“I’m really emotional because my son took the band trip,” said Aponte.

Thomas Haggerty went last year. He fondly remembered 43-year-old band leader Gina Pellettiere, who was killed.  

“She was easily one of the best in the school, always full of energy, happy and uplifting people,” said Haggerty.

Nassau County Legislator Rose Walker watched Pellettiere grow up. She remembered her love for music, her young daughter and her students. 

“She did it out of the love for what she did and the love for her kids,” said Walker.

Parents and students said the other woman killed was 77-year-old chaperone Beatrice Ferrari. 

“They’re friends and companions together had a weekend planned of fun and musicianship. Unfortunately, the day ended in tragedy,” said Bruce Blakeman, the executive of Nassau County.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Defendini wrote a letter to the community saying:

It is difficult to express the sadness and grief that the Farmingdale School District and I feel over the tragic events that unfolded earlier and the horrific experience our students endured. We deeply mourn the passing of our inspiring faculty and Band Director, Gina Pellittiere, and the heart and soul of our marching band program, Beatrice “Bea” Ferarri.  

As we had communicated earlier, one of our six buses that was transporting our marching band on its annual band camp trip to Pine Valley Camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania crashed. Passengers have been taken to Orange County Community College’s Diana Physical Education Building in Middletown, NY, where they reunited with their families. The Farmingdale School District worked with the State Police and Nassau County Police Department to arrange for escorted transportation so families could get to their children as quickly as possible. We are grateful to the first responders who arrived at the scene to care for those involved in the crash.

School will be open tomorrow and we have arranged for counselors and support staff to be available for all students, faculty and staff.  We understand that each of us will grieve in our own way.  I shared with our students earlier and our staff a few minutes ago that the best thing we can do is to give hugs and make sure each and every person in this community has the support they need.  We are here tomorrow and in the days to follow to provide that level of support. Our unconditional love and support goes out to all who are struggling.

Farmingdale’s strength is in its unity, and that is needed most during times of tragedy. 

At this time, we ask that the privacy of our students and their families be respected.

Paul Defendini