Emotions high at Farmingdale High School after bus overturns in Orange County: 'We're praying'

Lauren Glassberg Image
Saturday, September 23, 2023
Emotional reunion as students return after Orange County bus crash
Buses rolled up to Farmingdale High School in silence Thursday night. Traumatized students stepped out and embraced their teachers and their parents with tears in their eyes. NJ Burkett has more on the emotional reunion.

FARMINGDALE, Long Island (WABC) -- Emotions were high at Farmingdale High School on Long Island after a bus carrying dozens of students and several adults went off a New York highway and down an embankment Thursday.

The bus that crashed was one of six in a caravan from the high school carrying roughly 300 musicians, dancers and the school's color guard to a four-day band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania.

Two adults, 43-year-old Farmingdale High School band director Gina Pellettiere and 77-year-old retired teacher Beatrice Ferarri, were killed. Five students were also critically injured, State Police Lt. Col. Richard Mazzone said.

Ferrari was a longtime band chaperone. Daniel Aldieri is her son-in-law.

"My youngest son is a junior. She wanted to do it one more year to see him as a senior but she never got that opportunity," said Aldieri.

Victims were transported to six area hospitals, including Westchester County Medical Center and Garnet Health Medical Center in Wallkill.

Injured students from a bus crash in Orange County, New York were taken to two different hospitals, including Westchester Medical Center. Marcus Solis has the latest.

The five remaining buses rolled up to the Long Island high school in silence Thursday night under a New York State Police escort. Traumatized students stepped out, one by one, and embraced their teachers and their parents with tears in their eyes.

Just hours before the uninjured students reunited with their families, news of the crash shook the community, leaving classmates and faculty members stunned.

Donna Baltch, a teacher at Howitt Middle School, says her niece was on one of the other buses.

"She's okay. It's terrifying," she said. "These kids go on a trip to have fun, this is something that they look forward to all year, and these poor teachers, these chaperones, I'm hearing mixed things, we don't know if they're okay. Right now, we are just praying and hoping that they're okay."

Students at the high school "prayed" for the injured, many of whom are their friends.

"I was in the hallway when my friend came up to me, showed me a photo, her face was all bloodied and stuff. I started crying," student Wenel Jen-Babtist said. "I wanted to pray for my friends because I have a lot of friends on the bus."

Students and faculty members of Farmingdale High School react to the disastrous overturned school bus that led to the death of one person. Lauren Glassberg has the latest from the high school.

The crash came as such a shock that some students told Eyewitness News that they thought it was a joke.

"We saw somebody posting on Snapchat, the bus flipped over, we thought it was a joke at first," student Sean Jacobs said. "We didn't even know it was serious. It's horrible."

"Hearing about that during class, you see, someone picks up their phone and it goes person to person and dominates the hallway," said one Farmingdale High School senior. "We found out-just somebody standing in class and showing us pictures and stuff."

During an evening briefing, Governor Kathy Hochul offered her support to the Long Island community.

"There's a lot of families that need some love tonight," Governor Kathy Hochul said. "We'll extend that from 20 million New Yorkers."

Residents crowded the streets in sorrow and solidarity.

"If something happens in Farmingdale, the saying is 'Daler Strong.' 'Once a Daler, always a Daler' and you come out to support, and that's why you see everybody here," Farmingdale resident Cheri Jones said.

Farmingdale High School is expected to be open on Friday, and school officials say they have arranged for counselors and support staff to be available for all students, faculty and staff.

"Farmingdale's strength is in its unity, and that is needed most during times of tragedy," Farmingdale School District said in a letter to the community.

Preliminary information indicates a failure of a front tire may have been a contributing factor in the accident.

The NTSB, in coordination with the New York State Police, is sending a team to conduct a safety investigation into the crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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