The town of Farmingdale, New York is reeling from an unthinkable tragedy after a deadly bus crash claimed the lives of two community members and left several high school students critically injured.
The accident occurred Thursday afternoon on Interstate 84 near Wawayanda, about 75 miles from New York City. A charter bus carrying over 40 members of the Farmingdale High School band was on its way to a band competition in Pennsylvania when it mysteriously veered off the highway and rolled over around 1:15pm.
Authorities identified the two deceased victims as 43-year-old Gina Pellettiere and 77-year-old Beatrice Ferrari. Pellettiere was the beloved band director at Farmingdale High, while Ferrari was a local resident. Both died at the scene from injuries sustained in the crash.
Five students were also badly hurt and transported to area hospitals in critical condition. Dozens more on the bus endured minor injuries as the crash tore through an excited group of teens and chaperones.
The tragic loss of Pellettiere, known for her passion for music education and devotion to students, has left the entire Farmingdale community grief-stricken. “She touched so many lives through her gift of music,” said district superintendent Glen Zakian in a statement.
Farmingdale High’s principal, Glen Zakian, described Pellettiere as not just a talented teacher, but a caring mentor and friend to students. “She represented the best of what a teacher should be,” he said.
The school canceled classes on Friday to allow students to process their grief, surrounded by counselors and community support. Students described Pellettiere as inspirational, always pushing them to pursue their potential.
Local authorities are still investigating the cause of the horrific crash. Early reports indicate a possible front tire failure may have precipitated the bus swerving off the roadway into the grassy shoulder area and flipping onto its side.
As more details continue emerging, Farmingdale has rallied together to offer condolences and assist victims’ families. A memorial will be planned to properly honor the lives lost once the community begins healing from this devastating event.
Residents also hope to have safety improvements made mandatory for school travel to prevent another tragedy. But for now, the focus remains on mourning those killed and praying for injured students to pull through.
While the grief may feel insurmountable, Farmingdale High will carry on Pellettiere’s spirit and passion for the arts. Her legacy will live on in every note her students play and every song they perform. Though gone too soon, Pellettiere’s love for her students will echo on.