Beatrice Ferrari and Gina Pellettiere were honored at a Farmingdale church and a Copiague band competition Sunday. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez, James Carbone

This story was reported by Matthew Chayes, Grant Parpan, Darwin Yanes and Dandan Zou. It was written by Chayes.

The coping with what happened Thursday upstate — a bus crash that took the lives of two beloved Farmingdale High School educators and left dozens of students injured — took many forms Sunday in the village and beyond.

At St. Kilian Parish in Farmingdale, an audience of close to 400 listened intently during the 9:30 a.m. Mass. A priest recalled laughing with Beatrice Ferrari, 77, a chaperone and retired teacher who died in the crash, after her young grandson had an outburst in church just the prior week.

Inside the auditorium at Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School, students representing 10 high school marching bands from across Long Island got out of a driving rain and performed in their dress uniforms — many adorned this day with a small ribbon in green, Farmingdale High School's team colors.

And Sunday night, nearly 140 students, colleagues and loved ones gathered on a Zoom call to tell their stories of Ferrari and Gina Pellettiere, 43, Farmingdale High’s director of bands who also died in the bus crash. Taken together, loving but somber previews of what’s to come this week for the Farmingdale High community: funerals, wakes and more reminders of life’s fragility.


  • Worshippers at St. Kilian Catholic Church on Sunday mourned the victims of the Farmingdale High School bus crash.
  • In Copiague, 10 marching bands took part in a competition and many wore green ribbons in tribute to the victims.
  • A freshman on Farmingdale High's dance team worked with her mother to deliver care packages to her classmates, teachers and coaches.

“It could have happened to anyone,” said Eric Dobmeier, band director at Copiague High, of the Thursday afternoon crash.

Dobmeier, who’s been involved in band activities for more than two decades, said he has taken bus trips with students numerous times.

‘Close to home’

“It certainly hits close to home. … My heart goes out to that community,” he said shortly after his marching band’s performance in the auditorium.

Farmingdale High School band director Gina Pellettiere, 43, was killed in...

Farmingdale High School band director Gina Pellettiere, 43, was killed in the Thursday bus crash. Credit: Tony Lopez

One of Dobmeier’s band members, Kamar Birthwright, 17, a senior, said the reasons he loves marching band include traveling to competitions and getting the chance to meet new people. Of the bus crash, said Birthwright, who wore a green shirt and green ribbon: “It’s very sad.”

Green as a tribute to the victims took hold in Malverne on Sunday, where schools Superintendent Lorna Lewis sent a message to the school community urging all students to wear green to school Tuesday.

“The color green represents hope, growth, and renewal,” Lewis said in the message, “and by wearing it, we can stand together with Farmingdale as they navigate this difficult chapter.”

On Saturday, Farmingdale schools Superintendent Paul Defendini said all of those injured in the bus crash are expected to recover. There was no update provided on Sunday from the school district or the New York State Police.

Beatrice Ferrari was remembered at St. Kilian during Mass.

Beatrice Ferrari was remembered at St. Kilian during Mass. Credit: Ferrari Family

The charter bus was among six en route to a band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania, when it crashed at 1:12 p.m. Thursday on Interstate 84 in the town of Wawayanda in upstate Orange County. The bus careened down a 50-foot ravine and overturned, authorities said. Forty students and four adults were on board the charter bus, which state transportation officials said was operated by Regency Transportation of Nesconset.

The National Transportation Safety Board, the lead investigative agency, said that several students were ejected from the bus. The board said Friday that investigators are looking at a host of factors that could have led to the crash, including a faulty left front tire, mechanical issues and driver error.

State police spokesman Steven Nevel said speed and possible driver impairment hadn’t yet been ruled out as causes as well.

‘We’re strong. We’re family’

Three days after the crash, mourners sought solace in the pews at St. Kilian on Sunday. Mass was a priority, said Tina Cottone, a chaperone who had been with riding her daughter, Angelica, a freshman member of the school dance team, on another bus at the time of the crash.

“It’s really important to us, really important for the whole community to support the parents whose children are still in the hospital or just getting out of the hospital and have a long recovery, and to support the families of the lost teachers and kids who have gone through trauma,” Cottone said after the 11 a.m. Mass. “They saw something so traumatic. … We’re strong. We’re family.”

Members of the Walt Whitman High School marching band Sunday...

Members of the Walt Whitman High School marching band Sunday at a Copiague High School competition wear green ribbons in honor of the Farmingdale High School bus crash victims. Credit: James Carbone

Angelica, 14, said she and her friends on the dance team were so excited about the trip that they talked about it all summer, even counting down class periods Thursday until they could get on the bus.

A visit Saturday from two of Angelica’s teachers from when she attended Northside Elementary School in Farmingdale cheered her up, but also provided inspiration.

“They just made me happy. And I wanted to make other people happy,” said Angelica at home Sunday, wearing a black hoodie with “Farmingdale Dalerettes” in white and green.

After the teachers, Melissa Tyler and Hillary Siegel, left her house Saturday, Angelica bought bags of chocolates with the money she made from babysitting.

“Everyone loves chocolate,” she thought. With help from her mother, she melted the chocolates, shaped them into white-and-green paw prints on lollipops and tied plastics over the sweets with green and white ribbons. She also dipped pretzel rods in chocolate. Together with her mother, Angelica delivered about 100 care packages with chocolate lollipops and pretzels in the rain Saturday to her classmates, teachers and coaches, with more to come on Sunday.

“I like putting smiles on peoples’ faces,” she said.

So did Gina Pellettiere, according to Jennifer Ross-Troise, the Copiague school district’s coordinator of fine arts who had known the director of bands since both attended Hofstra University.

“Gina was like 5-foot-1, but she had like a 7-foot-9 personality,” Ross-Troise said Sunday at the Copiague band competition. “She was always there to make you laugh. If something wasn’t going great, she would pick on you in a great way and make you laugh. She loved her job. And she loved her kids.”

A tribute to ‘Bea’ and Gina

In a Zoom call Sunday evening, there were prayers and there were toasts. Attendees in the virtual tribute raised their glasses to honor Ferrari and Pellettiere.

“Gina and Bea, we raise a toast to you, in celebration of your beautiful lives,” said Jessica McCoskey, who organized the Zoom call with her sister, Joanna, both former band members. “We will miss you both dearly and keep your memories alive by telling your stories and through our music.”

Former students took turns speaking about the two educators. How Ferrari was everyone’s friend. How Pellettiere loved to call people “dude.”

Matt Rocha, also a former marching band member who graduated from Farmingdale in 2014, said he almost quit music until Pellettiere brought the band to his middle school. He recalled watching Pellettiere’s energy as she led the marching band and called it “magical.”

“The amount of doors that have been opened because of Miss P is absolutely incredible,” said Rocha, adding that he met his wife in marching band. “We just want to hear her call us dude one more time.”

Ferrari, was remembered by Thomas DePaola, a former teacher at Farmingdale High School, as “Bea,” a kind woman who loved her family, and a friend.

“Bea was the nicest person and always had a kind word,” he said.

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