Marching band director Gina Pellettiere, 43, and retired teacher Beatrice Ferrari, 77, were killed in the horrifying smash in Orange County, New York state, US. Dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene and carried the victims - some in life-threatening conditions - to hospital.
The bus was only 30 minutes from its destination when it topped over on Interstate 84 in the town of Wawayanda, about 45 miles northwest of New York City. It was one of six buses carrying a total of 300 students from Long Island to a band camp in Pennsylvania.
Student Anthony Eugenio, 15, was asleep on the bus when he felt a thud and awoke to what he thought was a dream or nightmare. The bus felt as if it was tipping. Then he felt himself tumbling - how many times he can't recall - as he tried to pull his sweatshirt hood from over his eyes. "Then everyone was yelling," he said. "The kid next to me was covered in blood. I saw blood everywhere."
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He crawled out of the overturned bus through a window, dazed but only scraped and bruised. Once outside, he found his backpack, which had been thrown from the wreck, and his missing shoe.
Heartbroken students and colleagues from Farmingdale High School paid tribute to the tragic pair who lost their lives. Band member Alexander Felker said: "I’m devastated for the students, the faculty, and the families of Farmingdale. We have lost two beautiful souls in the Farmingdale music community.
"I have lost a role model, an influential music teacher, and beloved friend, Ms Gina Pellettiere. I will miss you forever, and never forget the impact you have made on me, and countless others."
The Nassau Music Educators Association also paid tribute, writing: "NMEA is devastated to hear of the passing of our friend, colleague, confidante and executive board member Gina Pellettiere in today’s tragic accident in Orange County, NY. Gina was the highly regarded and adored wind ensemble and marching band director at Farmingdale HS, and an active member of the music education community across our county, region and state.
"Her warm smile, infectious laugh, incredible storytelling ability, passion for life and talent at her craft will be greatly missed by all who knew her personally and professionally. Our sincerest condolences to Gina’s family, friends, students, colleagues, the Farmingdale community, and all those who mourn her passing. Further information will be shared as it becomes available."
News helicopter footage showed tire tracks on the roadway and a path of ripped-up grass and shrubs on the embankment. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the bus tumbled 50 feet down the steep slope in a wide median between the eastbound and westbound lanes of the highway.
The bus came to rest on its left side, its roof warped. A ladder allowed rescuers to reach the windows. The September trip to band camp is an annual tradition at the suburban high school, which has around 1,700 students. Members of the band, colour guard and the school's kickline team attend, as well as adult chaperones. During some years, more than 300 students have gone on the trip to rehearse and have fun in rural Pennsylvania.
The bus crashed about 30 miles (48 kilometers) away from the Pine Forest Camp, where the students were headed. Many of the 40 students on the bus were freshmen, Governor Hochul said. "They endured. They were strong," she said.
Bruce Blakeman, the county executive in Nassau County, where Farmingdale High School is located, asked that people please "pray for the injured."
In her news conference, Governor Hochul described the tragedy “a day of terror” for the children. She told reporters: “Certainly there are families grieving today. We have families, we have a school, a school district, a county and indeed an entire state that is grieving at this time.
“Imagine the fear, the screams and the aftermath when these high school students – many of them freshmen – were surrounded by this chaos.”2023-09-21T18:16:40Z dg43tfdfdgfd