ORANGE COUNTY, N.Y. (PIX11) —- Two people died and 42 others were hurt when a charter bus carrying students from Long Island to a band camp overturned down an embankment on a New York highway Thursday afternoon, officials said.
The bus crashed on Interstate 84 just outside of Middletown in Orange County at 1:12 p.m., police said. It was one of six buses carrying students from Farmingdale High School to a band camp in Greeley in northeastern Pennsylvania, according to the school district.
Four adults and 40 students were on the bus. Five students were hospitalized in critical condition after the crash, officials said.
The high school’s band director, Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, and a retired teacher Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale, were identified as the two people who died in the crash.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said a faulty front tire may have contributed to the crash, according to the preliminary investigation. However, the governor stressed that the crash is still under investigation.
Video from AIR11 showed the bus lying on its side in trees and shrubs yards off the road in the median between the westbound and eastbound sides of the highway.
Farmingdale 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.”
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.
Eugenio, who spoke to The Associated Press from a car as his mother drove him home, said his thought as the bus turned over and over was “This can’t be real.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to investigate the crash, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said. Hochul said she sent the Division of Homeland Security to also help local authorities with the investigation.
“There are a lot of families who need some love tonight, and we extend that from 20 million New Yorkers who all know how much we cherish our children,” Hochul said at a news conference Thursday evening. “Let’s keep them in our prayers this evening and as they recover from this horrific traumatic experience.”
Injured students were sent to a reunification center at the SUNY Orange campus on Conkling Avenue in Middletown to meet up with their parents, officials said. Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano said parents could contact Orange County Emergency Management at 845-615-0400 for details on reuniting with their children.
Students from the other five buses headed back to Farmingdale High School.
Bruce Blakeman, the executive of Nassau County where Farmingdale is located, expressed his sympathy to the families of those involved.
“What started out as an incredibly beautiful day in New York State … they had a weekend plan of fun … unfortunately the day ended in tragedy for so many,” Blakeman said. “Our hearts go out to all of the families of Farmingdale High School.”
I-84 was shut down for several hours while police investigated the crash.