A high school community in Farmingdale, New York, is grieving after a school bus crash killed a band director as well as a volunteer chaperone.
Gina Pellettiere – the 43-year-old director of the Farmingdale high school marching band and wind ensemble – and Beatrice Ferrari, 77, a retired social studies teacher, were killed when the bus they were on overturned Thursday off an embankment into a 50ft ravine.
Five students were critically injured in the crash, which occurred as a group of 40 pupils and four adults was headed to a band camp in Pennsylvania. Three of the injured remained hospitalized in serious condition heading into the weekend.
Loved ones of Pellettiere and Ferrari have spent the time since the deadly crash mourning.
Pellettiere’s survivors include a young son, and one of her neighbors described her as “an amazing community member” and an “amazing teacher”, according to the New York Post.
Ferrari, meanwhile, had volunteered to help watch over the children during the trip because she was known as the “heart and soul of their marching band program”, CBS News reported.
Grief counselors were provided to students as news of the bus crash spread beyond New York.
A Farmingdale student, Anthony Eugenio, 15, told the local news outlet ABC7 that he was asleep on the bus at the time of the crash and woke up as the vehicle felt like it was tipping over and he had the sensation that he was tumbling.
“Then everyone was yelling,” he said. “The kid next to me was covered in blood. I saw blood everywhere.”
The student crawled out of a window with only minor scrapes and bruises.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. The agency has provided little information about what happened, though officials are examining the possibility that the bus’s left front tire failed.
An investigator said during a news conference that the bus would be reviewed for mechanical issues, regulation compliance by the carrier, and survival factors like “the general crashworthiness” of the vehicle. Officials said the bus had been inspected randomly four times since 2021 and had last been inspected in August.
CBS New York spoke with a state trooper who responded to the scene of the wreck.
“Once I got down to the scene, numerous children scattered around, crying, asking for their parents,” said the trooper, Jason Lewis. “Just as I would do with my two children, I aided to them, I cared for them, tried to calm them down. And then we started to walk through the brush and we started to look for the other children, if there were any other children that were thrown from the bus.”
The investigation is expected to take five to seven days to determine what happened and make safety recommendations.