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Farmingdale community expresses shock, sorrow after learning of charter bus crash in New York's Orange County

Farmingdale H.S. students return home after deadly Orange County bus crash
Farmingdale H.S. students return home after deadly Orange County bus crash 02:58

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Students at Farmingdale High School and other community members in New York's Nassau County on Long Island were struggling with their emotions after learning a charter bus carrying some of their classmates crashed en route to a band camp in Pennsylvania on Thursday afternoon.

As CBS New York's Jennifer McLogan reported, 300 of Farmingdale High's approximately 1,700 students went on the trip to Greeley, Pennsylvania, as part of a school tradition. Authorities said one of the six buses carrying four adults and 40 students rolled down an embankment on Interstate 84 near the town of Wawayanda in Orange County.

Officials say two adults were killed and up to six students were critically injured.

The students McLogan spoke to said they were told many of the injured were freshmen.

An emergency faculty meeting was held at the school at 1:30 p.m., and by 2 p.m., just before dismissal, students heard via social media and texts from their friends on the buses. They were taken into the auditorium for counseling and support.

Farmingdale community reacts to deadly bus crash 02:15

After-school activities and games have been canceled, along with the district's back-to-school night.

Hours after the buses left the school, the superintendent informed parents one of the six buses had slid down an embankment and children were injured.

"The only thing that I know, I know is that they're taking everybody home," said a father whose daughter was on the bus. The man said his daughter was "fine."

Administrators, parents and the Nassau County Executive headed to Pennsylvania to help facilitate the scene. Others headed to the Orange County Community College reunification center.

The five buses not involved in the crash returned to Farmingdale.

"It's simply devastating," Farmingdale student says

"I heard a lot of my friends are critically injured," said one freshman, who added he spoke to friends who were on the bus that crashed. 

"I'm not feeling too good right now," he said. "Like, I usually take a bus. I don't think I want to take a bus no more. That's why I'm always cautious about going to trips, like for school on the bus. Now, I don't know if I want to, like, take trips no more. I feel sad. I just want to pray, want to pray. I want to know how my friends' families are feeling. I'm all shaky and stuff because a lot of my friends were on that bus."

McLogan reported many of Farmingdale High School's administrators were on their way to the crash site in Orange County.

Farmingdale High School students react to news of charter bus crash in Orange County 04:23

Another student said he believes the entire bus was filled with ninth graders.

"It's simply devastating," he said. "It's bad ... like, I never thought this could happen. It was shocking to me when I heard it was true and  I saw the images. I mean, these are our friends, you know? It's horrible."

Another student said he saw photos and videos from the crash site.

"I feel bad for them. I hope they feel better. I thought the tire just came off. I didn't know they crashed and did flips and stuff," the student said.

Farmingdale students, residents shaken by news of deadly bus crash 02:09

"So many of us know them and were friends with them. It's just a very scary thing that you wouldn't know that that would happen," one girl said.

"We know these people. Just really puts into perspective how heart wrenching this incident was," another girl said.

"This is like our community. These are our people that we see. It's the things that we do, like our friends that we see all the time," another girl said.

"We just pray that all of the kids are OK and the teachers and the parents, and I've been working in Farmingdale 23 years, I've lived here for a long time, and this is a wonderful community, and right now we're just praying," one woman said.

"I just wanted to come here and see if there's any family here to give my condolences and see what I can do to give back to the community," one man said.

Some school administrators who spoke to CBS New York off camera said they are doing all they can to assuage fears.

Uninjured band members return home

The grief-stricken community came together Thursday night as busloads of students returned to the high school.

Neighborhood streets here were lined with not only families there to pick up their kids, but neighbors here bringing comfort to the students and parents who truly need it.

"We were all in denial. We were like, no way that could be our bus," band member Charlie Cartegena Caceres said.

Charlie, a sophomore, plays sousaphone for the marching band. His friends sprinted over once they saw him, hugging him tightly. He was on the bus behind Bus 1 and witnessed it falling into the ravine.

"Everyone was anxious, everyone started calling and texting their loved ones. Others started wondering who was on that bus, texting people who were on that bus, and we found out what some people went through," Charlie said. "And then we saw teachers, chaperones, rushing down there to help the kids out."

Anthony Alvarado was one of many family members waiting to pick up their loved ones from the other buses on the caravan that arrived to Farmingdale High School. He says his freshman sister was originally supposed to be on Bus 1 but made a last-minute switch to another bus to be with her friends.

"Thank God she wanted to be with her friend first," Alvarado said.

Two lives were lost on that bus -- 43-year-old Gina Pellettiere, from Massapequa, and 77-year-old Beatrice Ferarri, from Farmingdale. Pellettiere was the band's beloved leader.

"She was just dancing with the music. You really gotta go back and see some of the performances, you could see the love and the passion she had for the music and the kids," parent Yolanda Aponte said. "And she really made everybody feel so welcome. I don't want that to get missed in the midst of everything."

"She was basically everything for the marching band. She led us. She hyped us up. She would get us excited for everything. It's a true loss for the marching band," Charlie said.

"I loved Beatrice, and I didn't even know her for long," said Gianna Pro-Solorzano, a junior at the high school.

Gianna lived around the corner from Ferarri, who we're hearing was a retired history teacher from the high school who was a chaperone on the trip.

"If you would have a conversation with her, there's not one time where she wouldn't bring up band and everything. She was such a sweet person. She would ask about my schedule all the time," Gianna said.

It was truly traumatizing for many of the students, even those who have returned home, just from listening to what their classmates went through.

Five students remain in critical condition.

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