MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (AP) — A charter bus carrying high school students to a band camp veered off a New York highway 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.
It was only about 30 minutes from its destination when the wreck happened a little after 1 p.m. on Interstate 84 in the town of Wawayanda, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) northwest of New York City.
A tire failure may have been to blame for the bus going off the road, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
The two adults who died were the high school’s band director, Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, and a retired teacher Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale.
Five of the 44 passengers on board were hospitalized in critical condition, according to state police.
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.”
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.
News helicopter footage showed tire tracks on the roadway and a path of ripped-up grass and shrubs on the embankment. 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.
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.
Anthony Eugenio, who spoke to The Associated Press from a car as his mother drove him home, said his thought as the bus turned over and over was “This can’t be real.”
Bruce Blakeman, the county executive in Nassau County, where Farmingdale High School is located, asked that people please “pray for the injured.”
Calvan and Associated Press writer Karen Matthews reported from New York City. Michael Hill and Maysoon Khan contributed from Albany. Carolyn Thompson contributed from Buffalo.