The National Transportation Safety Board and the New York State Police are investigating what caused a bus carrying dozens of high school students to come crashing down a ravine, killing two adults on board.
An investigative team is expected to arrive at the scene of the crash, on Interstate 84 in the town of Wawayanda – about 70 miles northwest of New York City, on Friday morning, the NTSB said.
Preliminary information indicates a faulty front tire may have contributed to the crash, authorities said Thursday evening, but a probe into the fatal accident is ongoing.
The bus – along with five others – was on its way Thursday to a band camp event in Pennsylvania, the Farmingdale School District, which is in Long Island, said in a statement.
Authorities responded to a call about a “rollover commercial bus accident” at roughly 1:12 p.m. Thursday, Lt. Colonel Richard Mazzone, of the New York State Police, said during an evening news conference.
Aboard the bus were 40 students from Farmingdale High School and four adults, Mazzone said.
The two adults who lost their lives were identified as as Gina Pellettiere, 43, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77.
Several people were also injured, including five critically, Mazzone added. He did not offer further details on those injuries. They were taken to six area hospitals, he added.
Screaming, chaos and a swift rescue
For many students in Farmingdale, Thursday began with excitement as they embarked on their planned band trip, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said during the news conference. Farmingdale is located in Nassau County.
“They were members of the band at Farmingdale High School, (with) their friends, their companions, together, they had a weekend planned of fun and enjoying their musicianship,” Blakeman said. “Unfortunately, the day ended in tragedy.”
The bus that 40 students were in “literally tumbled down a 50-foot ravine,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. Aerial images from CNN affiliates showed the large bus laying on one side after its fall, surrounded by trees.
“Imagine the fear, the screams, and the aftermath, when these high school students, many of them freshmen, were surrounded by this chaos. But they endured, they were strong and within 45 minutes, because of the efforts of an incredible amount of team work, these young people and the adults were brought to safety.”
In a later post on X, formerly Twitter, the governor thanked first responders “for the quick and heroic actions” at the scene.
Multiple fire and rescue departments responded to the scene, the governor said Thursday, “literally running in the danger, uncertain as to whether or not that bus could explode.”
“The only advice I can give to anybody tonight is hug your children very tight, life is very precious and our kids started out today thinking they were going to have a wonderful weekend with their friends,” Blakeman said during the news conference.
“If it wasn’t for (law enforcement and first responders) and all that they did, we would have lost more (people) and they wouldn’t have gotten the care as quickly as they did,” he added.