By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – A bus carrying members of a high school marching band on a trip to a music camp ran off a highway and tumbled down a steep ravine in New York state on Thursday, killing two people and injuring dozens of others, several of them severely.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, speaking at a news conference hours later, said it appeared likely “a faulty front tire contributed to the accident,” though the cause of the wreck remained under investigation.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Mazzone of the New York State Police said the wreck killed two adult women who were among 44 passengers, 40 students and four adults, headed from Farmington High School on Long Island to Pennsylvania.
Hochul said five or six other people were critically injured. One of the dead was a faculty adviser for the school’s band program.
Dozens of students suffered minor bumps and bruises and were seen walking around the scene after the crash. The injured were taken to a half-dozen area hospitals.
“Imagine the fear, the screams in the aftermath. These high school students, many of them freshmen were surrounded by this chaos,” Hochul said.
The two dead were identified as Beatrice Ferarri, 77, of Farmingdale, and Gina Pellettiere, 43, of the nearby Long Island town of Massapequa. Pellettiere was one of three advisers to the marching band, as well as the lone adviser to both the school’s jazz and “pep” bands, the Farmingdale High School website shows.
In a Facebook posting, an individual named Ray Eugenio wrote that his grandson was among those injured in the wreck and asked for prayers.
“He was involved in a very serious accident and we do not know the extent of his injuries,” the post said. The account could not be independently verified.
The crash occurred in the early afternoon along Interstate 84 near the town of Wawayanda, about 75 miles (120 km) northwest of New York City near the border with New Jersey. The New York State Police said in a posting on social media the westbound lanes of the highway were closed at that point.
Aerial footage broadcast by local media from the crash scene showed the coach-style bus on its side amid trees and brush at the bottom of an embankment between the east and westbound lanes of the divided highway. The bus appeared largely intact, with debris from the vehicle strewn nearby.
The bus had been carrying members of the high school band from the Long Island village of Farmingdale in Nassau County on a trip to a band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania, officials said.
Five other buses going to the camp as part of the trip, an annual outing of the marching band, according to the school district, headed back to Farmingdale after the crash, local media reported.
There was no word on whether any other vehicles were involved. Weather in the area was clear at the time.
Video from the scene showed the overturned motor coach bearing the logo for Regency Buses, a regional bus line that serves New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, Doina Chiacu, Kanishka Singh and Rami Ayyub in Washington, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Bill Berkrot and Chris Reese)