NTSB investigation begins after bus tumbled 50 feet down slope in deadly crash

Investigators are looking into whether a blown front tire may have caused a charter bus to careen off a New York highway and tumble down an embankment Thursday, killing two adults and hurting dozens of others, officials said.

The bus, carrying students from Farmingdale High School in Nassau County on Long Island, was headed to band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania.

The crash happened westbound on I-84 in Wawayanda, Orange County at 1:20 p.m., only about 30 minutes from its destination, the Pine Forest Camp.

There were 40 students and four adults on board the bus at the time of the crash.

Two adults, 43-year-old Farmingdale High School band director Gina Pellettiere and 77-year-old retired social studies teacher Beatrice Ferarri, were killed.

On Friday evening, 13 people were still hospitalized. Eight victims, including three in serious condition, were being treated at Westchester Medical Center. Five others were being treated at Garnett Health Medical Center. Their conditions were unknown.

Overnight crews up-righted the bus and I-84 opened to traffic Friday morning, as the NTSB, in coordination with the New York State Police, will conduct a safety investigation into the crash.

Preliminary information indicated a blown left, front tire may have led the driver to lose control of the bus which rolled down the embankment, however NTSB Investigator John Humm said during a Friday afternoon briefing that it’s “really premature” to say that it was the cause, but that it could have been a factor.

Humm said the agency will be examining several factors, including the vehicle, motor carrier and the emergency response.

NTSB investigators say they will be on the scene for about five to seven days.

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.

“I thought it was a dream until I could feel like the pain in my leg,” he said. “The kid next to me was covered in blood. I saw blood everywhere.”

Eugenio said 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.

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.

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

During a briefing Thursday night, New York officials had a somber message in wake of the crash.

“The only advice I can give to anybody tonight is hug your children very tight,” said Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

Many of the 40 students on the bus were freshmen, Hochul said. “They endured. They were strong,” she said.

The injured students who did not require hospitalization were taken to a community building for reunification with parents.

The bus, owned by Regency Transportation in Nesconset, was one of six in a caravan carrying students from the high school.

Students on the other buses stopped off at a community college for a break and met with counselors before heading back to Long Island.

Students and faculty members at Farmingdale High School were shaken following the tragic events that unfolded on Thursday.

“My niece is on one of the other buses, she’s okay. It’s terrifying,” Howitt Middle School teacher Donna Baltch 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.”

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