Students and staff at Farmingdale High School prepared for an emotional day Friday, following the death of the Farmingdale High School director of bands and a retired social studies teacher in a bus crash in Orange County on Thursday. NewsdayTV's Macy Egeland reports. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp; Ed Quinn; WCBS

This story was reported by John Asbury, Robert Brodsky, Candice Ferrette, Michael Gormley, Mark LaMonica and John Valenti. It was written by Brodsky.

Nearly two dozen passengers on a Farmingdale High School charter bus that crashed Thursday afternoon in Orange County remained hospitalized Friday, including one female freshman who had been airlifted to a New Hyde Park hospital overnight with severe injuries, and four other students who remained in critical condition, according to officials.

The devastating accident left dozens of members of the school's marching band injured and killed Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, the school's director of bands, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale, a retired social studies teacher who was acting as a chaperone on the annual trip to a band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator John Humm said multiple passengers were ejected from the bus as it crashed through a roadside cable barrier and down a 50-foot ravine while traveling west on I-84 in the town of Wawayanda before landing on its left side.

Investigators were looking at a host of factors that could have led to the crash, including a faulty left front tire, mechanical issues and driver error.

“Our goal is to find out what happened, why it happened and to make safety recommendations to reduce the chance that this sort of accident never happens again,” he said at an afternoon news conference in Middletown, adding that investigators will be at the scene for five to seven days. “We will not be determining the probable cause at this time.”

The NTSB had not yet determined whether the driver and students were wearing seat belts and how or where they were ejected from the bus. Investigators were working to acquire any cameras that might have been installed on the bus.

State Police spokesman Trooper Steven Nevel said speed and possible driver impairment had not yet been ruled out as causes.

Investigators had not spoken to the bus driver and were unclear on her condition, Humm said, but planned to interview her as soon as possible.

 "There might be several factors that cause an accident," Humm said. "That faulty tire might be one of them." 

As the Farmingdale community began to mourn the loss of two beloved current and former members of the school's faculty — and provided counseling  — attention turned to the injured victims.

Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and Westchester Medical Center were providing care to 12 bus passengers: three in serious condition and nine in good condition, according to a hospital statement. Among them were three patients who had been transferred to Westchester Medical Center overnight from St. Anthony Community Hospital in Warwick. 

An additional seven students and one adult were hospitalized at Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown, while one adult passenger was at Montefiore St. Luke’s hospital in Cornwall,  Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said at a news conference in Mineola Friday. Hospital officials did not provide an update on their conditions.

A total of 22 students had been discharged from local hospitals and five were in critical condition, State Police said Friday.

Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said a female freshman had been taken to Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park. 

"She has very severe injuries," he said, adding that the girl, a junior firefighter, was conscious and able to speak.

State Trooper Jason Lewis, one of the first responders on the scene Thursday, described a chaotic scene.

"It was mayhem. It was a very horrendous, tragic accident," Lewis said Friday at Troop F headquarters in Middletown, where the bus was taken for examination. "Once I got down to the scene, numerous children scattered around, crying, asking for their parents."

Lewis said he cared for injured children while looking through the brush for other victims. One child, he said, had a broken leg.

"Unfortunately there was someone next to him that was not doing so well, so I calmed him down and tried to bring up his spirit a little bit," he said.

In total, 40 students and four adults were on board the bus. Five other buses on their way to the band camp were redirected Thursday night safely back to Farmingdale.

Blakeman on Friday credited first responders to the crash scene for their quick actions.

"They saved our kids" with their swift response and professionalism, he said. "If they had not acted as swiftly and decisively to such professionalism, it could have been so much worse."

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the department  would escort the bodies of Pellettiere and Ferrari back to Long Island.

In a message Friday to Farmingdale parents and students, district Superintendent Paul Defendini said a crisis center has been established at Howitt Middle School for staff, students and community members. The center, which will be staffed with volunteers from Farmingdale and neighboring districts, will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.

"Daler Strong is alive and well right now, and we are working together to support our students and staff as we take the time to heal," Defendini said in the message. 

The high school was open Friday with support staff available while the county will provide mental health services and counseling at the high school Tuesday through Thursday, Blakeman said.

All after-school competitions from Friday through the weekend were canceled, Defendini said. Also canceled were Farmingdale's football game Friday night against Freeport High School, and all baseball, softball and soccer games and practices, officials said.

"We had several players on the bus trip, as well as some kids on the freshman bus involved with the accident," according to the Farmingdale Soccer Board. "As far as we know, some of our players were hospitalized and others received injuries." 

The 2014 blue Regency bus was towed away from the crash scene late Thursday and taken to the Troop F headquarters. The bus' windows had been knocked out and the front end was a mess of twisted metal after it tumbled down the hill.

The bus was inspected in August when it was purchased by Regency Transportation of Nesconset, and passed the semiannual inspection, said Joseph Morrissey, a State Department of Transportation spokesman.

The bus, which accumulated 443,133 miles as of August, has been inspected four times in “random roadside inspections” since 2021, including one after the August semiannual inspection by the DOT, he said.

“Over the last two years, buses operated by Regency Transportation incurred seven failed inspections during routine, semiannual inspections by the Department of Transportation,” Morrissey said. “The majority of issues identified by NYSDOT investigators had to do with the braking systems on a few buses. Buses with this issue were immediately taken out of service until rectified by the operator and verified by our inspectors. Recordkeeping and rear-axle issues were also identified.”

Messages left with Regency were not returned. In a Facebook post, the company said it was cooperating with authorities.

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records, one crash involving a Regency bus was reported to the agency in the last two years. That crash involved an injury, but records do not say who was responsible for the crash or provide details. The crash, the DOT said, occurred during the bus' previous ownership.

State Police are asking anyone who witnessed Thursday's crash or has dashboard camera video of the incident to contact Troop F headquarters.

Meanwhile, State Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Timothy Kennedy (D-Buffalo) is weighing whether legislative action is warranted as a result of the crash "to prevent similar tragedies," said his spokeswoman, Molly Hirschbeck.

Nearly two dozen passengers on a Farmingdale High School charter bus that crashed Thursday afternoon in Orange County remained hospitalized Friday, including one female freshman who had been airlifted to a New Hyde Park hospital overnight with severe injuries, and four other students who remained in critical condition, according to officials.

The devastating accident left dozens of members of the school's marching band injured and killed Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, the school's director of bands, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale, a retired social studies teacher who was acting as a chaperone on the annual trip to a band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator John Humm said multiple passengers were ejected from the bus as it crashed through a roadside cable barrier and down a 50-foot ravine while traveling west on I-84 in the town of Wawayanda before landing on its left side.

Investigators were looking at a host of factors that could have led to the crash, including a faulty left front tire, mechanical issues and driver error.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Nearly two dozen passengers on a Farmingdale High School charter bus that crashed Thursday afternoon in Orange County remained hospitalized Friday, according to officials. Five students were in critical condition, officials said.
  • Investigators were looking at a host of factors that could have led to the crash, including a faulty left front tire, mechanical issues and driver error.
  • A crisis center has been established at Howitt Middle School for staff, students and community members, district Superintendent Paul Defendini said.

“Our goal is to find out what happened, why it happened and to make safety recommendations to reduce the chance that this sort of accident never happens again,” he said at an afternoon news conference in Middletown, adding that investigators will be at the scene for five to seven days. “We will not be determining the probable cause at this time.”

NTSB Investigator John Humm speaks to the media Friday in...

NTSB Investigator John Humm speaks to the media Friday in Middletown. Credit: Howard Simmons

The NTSB had not yet determined whether the driver and students were wearing seat belts and how or where they were ejected from the bus. Investigators were working to acquire any cameras that might have been installed on the bus.

State Police spokesman Trooper Steven Nevel said speed and possible driver impairment had not yet been ruled out as causes.

Investigators had not spoken to the bus driver and were unclear on her condition, Humm said, but planned to interview her as soon as possible.

 "There might be several factors that cause an accident," Humm said. "That faulty tire might be one of them." 

'It was mayhem'

As the Farmingdale community began to mourn the loss of two beloved current and former members of the school's faculty — and provided counseling  — attention turned to the injured victims.

Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and Westchester Medical Center were providing care to 12 bus passengers: three in serious condition and nine in good condition, according to a hospital statement. Among them were three patients who had been transferred to Westchester Medical Center overnight from St. Anthony Community Hospital in Warwick. 

An additional seven students and one adult were hospitalized at Garnet Health Medical Center in Middletown, while one adult passenger was at Montefiore St. Luke’s hospital in Cornwall,  Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said at a news conference in Mineola Friday. Hospital officials did not provide an update on their conditions.

A total of 22 students had been discharged from local hospitals and five were in critical condition, State Police said Friday.

The bus carrying members of the Farmingdale High School band...

The bus carrying members of the Farmingdale High School band is removed from the ravine late Thursday night. Credit: Howard Simmons

Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said a female freshman had been taken to Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park. 

"She has very severe injuries," he said, adding that the girl, a junior firefighter, was conscious and able to speak.

State Trooper Jason Lewis, one of the first responders on the scene Thursday, described a chaotic scene.

"It was mayhem. It was a very horrendous, tragic accident," Lewis said Friday at Troop F headquarters in Middletown, where the bus was taken for examination. "Once I got down to the scene, numerous children scattered around, crying, asking for their parents."

Lewis said he cared for injured children while looking through the brush for other victims. One child, he said, had a broken leg.

"Unfortunately there was someone next to him that was not doing so well, so I calmed him down and tried to bring up his spirit a little bit," he said.

Crisis center this weekend

In total, 40 students and four adults were on board the bus. Five other buses on their way to the band camp were redirected Thursday night safely back to Farmingdale.

Blakeman on Friday credited first responders to the crash scene for their quick actions.

"They saved our kids" with their swift response and professionalism, he said. "If they had not acted as swiftly and decisively to such professionalism, it could have been so much worse."

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the department  would escort the bodies of Pellettiere and Ferrari back to Long Island.

In a message Friday to Farmingdale parents and students, district Superintendent Paul Defendini said a crisis center has been established at Howitt Middle School for staff, students and community members. The center, which will be staffed with volunteers from Farmingdale and neighboring districts, will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.

"Daler Strong is alive and well right now, and we are working together to support our students and staff as we take the time to heal," Defendini said in the message. 

Students and faculty embrace at a memorial outside Farmingdale High...

Students and faculty embrace at a memorial outside Farmingdale High School on Friday. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The high school was open Friday with support staff available while the county will provide mental health services and counseling at the high school Tuesday through Thursday, Blakeman said.

All after-school competitions from Friday through the weekend were canceled, Defendini said. Also canceled were Farmingdale's football game Friday night against Freeport High School, and all baseball, softball and soccer games and practices, officials said.

"We had several players on the bus trip, as well as some kids on the freshman bus involved with the accident," according to the Farmingdale Soccer Board. "As far as we know, some of our players were hospitalized and others received injuries." 

Twisted metal

The 2014 blue Regency bus was towed away from the crash scene late Thursday and taken to the Troop F headquarters. The bus' windows had been knocked out and the front end was a mess of twisted metal after it tumbled down the hill.

The bus was inspected in August when it was purchased by Regency Transportation of Nesconset, and passed the semiannual inspection, said Joseph Morrissey, a State Department of Transportation spokesman.

The bus outside State Police Troop F headquarters on Friday.

The bus outside State Police Troop F headquarters on Friday. Credit: Howard Simmons

The bus, which accumulated 443,133 miles as of August, has been inspected four times in “random roadside inspections” since 2021, including one after the August semiannual inspection by the DOT, he said.

“Over the last two years, buses operated by Regency Transportation incurred seven failed inspections during routine, semiannual inspections by the Department of Transportation,” Morrissey said. “The majority of issues identified by NYSDOT investigators had to do with the braking systems on a few buses. Buses with this issue were immediately taken out of service until rectified by the operator and verified by our inspectors. Recordkeeping and rear-axle issues were also identified.”

Messages left with Regency were not returned. In a Facebook post, the company said it was cooperating with authorities.

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records, one crash involving a Regency bus was reported to the agency in the last two years. That crash involved an injury, but records do not say who was responsible for the crash or provide details. The crash, the DOT said, occurred during the bus' previous ownership.

State Police are asking anyone who witnessed Thursday's crash or has dashboard camera video of the incident to contact Troop F headquarters.

Meanwhile, State Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Timothy Kennedy (D-Buffalo) is weighing whether legislative action is warranted as a result of the crash "to prevent similar tragedies," said his spokeswoman, Molly Hirschbeck.

Students could soon have a 'Heat Day' … A 'Heroes Fountain' … 90-year-old volunteer Credit: Newsday

Updated 5 minutes ago Suffolk red light program set to end ... Students could soon have a 'Heat Day' ... A 'Heroes Fountain' ... Wet weather ahead

Students could soon have a 'Heat Day' … A 'Heroes Fountain' … 90-year-old volunteer Credit: Newsday

Updated 5 minutes ago Suffolk red light program set to end ... Students could soon have a 'Heat Day' ... A 'Heroes Fountain' ... Wet weather ahead

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