NTSB investigating deadly Orange County bus crash; officials eye faulty tire

The NTSB is investigating after a charter bus carrying high school students from Long Island to a band camp veered off a highway in Orange County and tumbled down an embankment Thursday, killing two adults and seriously injuring several others, officials said.

The bus was one of six in a caravan taking the marching band, color guard, and dancers from Farmingdale High School on Long Island on a beloved annual trip to a camp in Greeley, in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The two people who died were the high school's band director, Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, and a retired teacher Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale.

Eight people remain hospitalized, with three in serious condition and five in stable condition at Westchester Medical Center. Additionally, five more patients are receiving treatment at another medical facility.

The bus is now at the New York State Police barracks in Middletown, where state police are working with the NTSB to discover the cause of the crash. 

While the bus driver remains unnamed, the NTSB has confirmed that she is a woman

According to Gov. Kathy Hochul, a tire failure may have been to blame for the bus going off the road.

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."

A September trip to band camp is an annual tradition at the suburban high school, which has around 1,700 students. Members of the band, color guard and the school’s kick line team attend, as well as adult chaperones. During some years, more than 300 students have gone on the trip to rehearse and have fun in rural Pennsylvania.

The bus crashed about 30 miles (48 kilometers) away from the Pine Forest Camp, where the students were headed.

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

Students on the other buses returned to Long Island hours after the crash. Six area hospitals treated the injured.

Regency Transportation, based in Suffolk County, operated the bus. As of now, the company has not issued a statement regarding the incident. 

The New York State Department of Transportation told FOX 5 NY that  the bus was recently introduced into the company's fleet and passed inspection just last month. However, the company's inspection history reveals a troubling record.

In a statement, Joseph Morrissey, the Assistant Commissioner for Communications with the Department of Transportation told FOX 5 NY:

"The vehicle involved in yesterday’s crash was inspected in August 2023, upon purchase by Regency, and passed this semi-annual inspection.  This was our first inspection of the vehicle, which was new to the fleet at the time.  Additionally, the vehicle has been subject to four random roadside inspections since 2021 (including one by NYSDOT which took place after the semi-annual inspection.  The others were performed in other states) and passed each inspection.

Over the last two years, buses operated by Regency Transportation incurred seven failed inspections during routine, semi-annual inspections by the Department of Transportation.  The majority of issues identified by NYSDOT investigators had to do with the braking systems on a few buses; buses with this issue were immediately taken out of service until rectified by the operator and verified by our inspectors.  Recordkeeping and rear axle issues were also identified. "

With the Associated Press.