By Lauren Feldman
Joy and excitement quickly turned to shock and despair on Thursday, September 21, as a bus containing members of the Farmingdale High School band camp careened down an embankment.
Officials say there were 44 passengers on the bus. The bus was heading westward on I-84, passing through Orange County’s Wawayanda, when it rolled down a 50-foot ravine, killing two and injuring 40 of the 44 passengers. Twenty-eight of the bus’ passengers, most of them high school freshmen, were hospitalized. At least five individuals were left in critical condition, confirmed New York Governor Kathy Hochul. All students are expected to recover. The crash happened near Exit 15 Mountain Road. It is currently believed a faulty front tire was to blame.
The two killed in the crash were 43-year-old Gina Pellettiere, and 77-year-old Beatrice Ferrari. Pellettiere was a beloved teacher at the school, known as “Ms. P.” to her students. She was also a single mother of a two-year-old. Ferrari, helping chaperone the trip, was a retired teacher and has been described as “a shining light in Farmingdale” on Facebook memorial posts.
Paul Defendini, Superintendent of the Farmingdale School District recently sent out a notice to the community. He said, “ I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of support in the wake of this tragic incident. ‘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.” The school district established a crisis center at Howitt Middle School the weekend following the tragedy, featuring volunteer counselors from the Farmingdale School District team and from neighboring districts and facilities to meet with any community member who sought support. All after-school competitions during the weekend were also canceled. “Again, I thank you all for everything you’ve done to support our kids during this incredible time of need. Stay together, stay strong, and we will get through this together.”
Local officials have also been weighing in on the tragedy. NYSSBA Executive Director Robert Schneider said, “On behalf of school board members throughout the state, our hearts go out to the families, staff and students of the Farmingdale School District as we await more information about those who were aboard a bus that crashed while carrying students to Pennsylvania Thursday.” He added, “We all stand in support of the Farmingdale community as they cope with this horrific and tragic event. We are thankful for the speedy action of first responders and we hope and pray for the recovery of those who were injured, and we mourn the lives of those who were lost.”
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino stated, “We are all ‘Dalers tonight as our collective hearts are with the tightknit Farmingdale community as we pray for our neighbors impacted by this horrific accident. We ask that all Long Islanders keep the students, families, and fellow ‘Dalers in their prayers.”
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman echoed similar thoughts. “Our hearts go out to the Farmingdale High School family. I am en route to Orange County. Nassau County has mobilized all of our resources to assist during this tragedy. Please pray for the injured.”
The Syosset Central School District publicly called on students and faculty to wear green on Sept. 26 in solidarity with Farmingdale.
The Jericho Union Free School District made the following statement: “Our hearts and prayers are with the entire Farmingdale community.”
—With additional reporting by Jennifer Corr