Mourners share an embrace outside the wake Tuesday in Massapequa...

Mourners share an embrace outside the wake Tuesday in Massapequa Park for Gina Pellettiere, Farmingdale High School's marching band director who died in last week's upstate bus crash. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

On Tuesday, the first day of Gina Pellettiere’s wake, the line of mourners snaked down the driveway of the Massapequa Funeral Home and out onto the sidewalk along Whitewood Drive. When they left the funeral home, crying in groups of twos and threes, others took their place.

They were students and parents and colleagues and former students, some in formal black, others in the kelly green Daler sweatshirts of Farmingdale High School, where Pelletiere had led the marching band for more than a decade.

Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, was one of two popular educators at the high school killed last Thursday when a bus carrying 40 marching band members and two other adults to a Pennsylvania band camp crashed down a 50-foot embankment on Interstate 84 in Orange County. Retired history teacher and longtime band chaperone Beatrice Ferrari, 77, was also killed in the crash, which injured dozens of students. 

The driver of the charter bus was identified as a Centereach woman, Lisa Schaffer, 59, state police said Tuesday. The National Transportation Safety Board officials interviewed Schaffer Saturday. They are looking into multiple possible factors behind the crash, including a faulty left tire, mechanical issues and driver error.

The wake for Pellettiere continues Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the south chapel of the funeral home on Merrick Road in Massapequa Park.

As she stood in line outside the funeral home, Cordelia Anthony, a Farmingdale High science teacher who had taught with Pellettiere, said being on campus Tuesday had been rough.

“We are in survival mode at the moment,” Anthony said. “We are trying to keep things as normal as possible but nothing’s normal.”

The line of mourners extended so far down a portion of Whitewood Drive near the funeral home's entrance that Nassau County police had to close part of the roadway. Officers stood near the funeral home's entrance wearing white gloves and dress blues.

Before she became "Ms. P" to generations of students, Pellettiere grew up in Hicksville and served as drum major in the high school marching band there. Another mourner, Debbie Skelly, said she’d been a Hicksville marching band mother whose son had played alongside Pellettiere.

Skelly recalled a “very energetic” girl with an unquenchable smile. There was something of a leader in her even then.

“You could tell she was special. People were happy to be around her,” Skelly said. Years later, Skelly said, she and Pellettiere became distant relatives by marriage.

Not everyone who attended the wake knew Pellettiere.

Ruth Betz, an accountant who graduated from Farmingdale schools in 1970, didn't; but the community around the school district with an enrollment of just over 5,000 students is “close-knit” she said, and she’d felt it reeling since news of the crash spread.

“I came for all the Dalers,” she said. “To show the students support.”

By early evening, the line was about 100 people. It got no shorter because as mourners emerged from the funeral home, new ones trickled in.

Christine Driscoll, a Farmingdale band mom, said she’d come to pay tribute to a woman who’d helped her son, Sean, grow. He played tuba, she said.

“Music changed him — it allowed him to express himself.”

Pellettiere “touched my heart, and it’s a tragedy, what happened,” Driscoll added.  “It’s been burning my heart since I heard about it.”

On Tuesday, the first day of Gina Pellettiere’s wake, the line of mourners snaked down the driveway of the Massapequa Funeral Home and out onto the sidewalk along Whitewood Drive. When they left the funeral home, crying in groups of twos and threes, others took their place.

They were students and parents and colleagues and former students, some in formal black, others in the kelly green Daler sweatshirts of Farmingdale High School, where Pelletiere had led the marching band for more than a decade.

Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, was one of two popular educators at the high school killed last Thursday when a bus carrying 40 marching band members and two other adults to a Pennsylvania band camp crashed down a 50-foot embankment on Interstate 84 in Orange County. Retired history teacher and longtime band chaperone Beatrice Ferrari, 77, was also killed in the crash, which injured dozens of students. 

The driver of the charter bus was identified as a Centereach woman, Lisa Schaffer, 59, state police said Tuesday. The National Transportation Safety Board officials interviewed Schaffer Saturday. They are looking into multiple possible factors behind the crash, including a faulty left tire, mechanical issues and driver error.

“You could tell she was special. People were happy to...

“You could tell she was special. People were happy to be around her,” said mourner Debbie Skelly at Tuesday's wake for Gina Pellettiere, above. Credit: Tony Lopez

The wake for Pellettiere continues Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the south chapel of the funeral home on Merrick Road in Massapequa Park.

As she stood in line outside the funeral home, Cordelia Anthony, a Farmingdale High science teacher who had taught with Pellettiere, said being on campus Tuesday had been rough.

“We are in survival mode at the moment,” Anthony said. “We are trying to keep things as normal as possible but nothing’s normal.”

The line of mourners extended so far down a portion of Whitewood Drive near the funeral home's entrance that Nassau County police had to close part of the roadway. Officers stood near the funeral home's entrance wearing white gloves and dress blues.

Before she became "Ms. P" to generations of students, Pellettiere grew up in Hicksville and served as drum major in the high school marching band there. Another mourner, Debbie Skelly, said she’d been a Hicksville marching band mother whose son had played alongside Pellettiere.

Skelly recalled a “very energetic” girl with an unquenchable smile. There was something of a leader in her even then.

“You could tell she was special. People were happy to be around her,” Skelly said. Years later, Skelly said, she and Pellettiere became distant relatives by marriage.

Not everyone who attended the wake knew Pellettiere.

Ruth Betz, an accountant who graduated from Farmingdale schools in 1970, didn't; but the community around the school district with an enrollment of just over 5,000 students is “close-knit” she said, and she’d felt it reeling since news of the crash spread.

“I came for all the Dalers,” she said. “To show the students support.”

By early evening, the line was about 100 people. It got no shorter because as mourners emerged from the funeral home, new ones trickled in.

Christine Driscoll, a Farmingdale band mom, said she’d come to pay tribute to a woman who’d helped her son, Sean, grow. He played tuba, she said.

“Music changed him — it allowed him to express himself.”

Pellettiere “touched my heart, and it’s a tragedy, what happened,” Driscoll added.  “It’s been burning my heart since I heard about it.”

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Southampton affordable housing … Dem primaries start Saturday … FeedMe: Outdoor dining Credit: Newsday

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