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NTSB begins investigation into Farmingdale High School bus crash

Investigators looking through debris of deadly Orange County bus crash
Investigators looking through debris of deadly Orange County bus crash 02:38

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board on Friday arrived on the scene of the deadly Farmingdale High School bus crash in Orange County.

They held a news conference at 4:30 p.m, which we brought you live on CBS News New York.

NTSB arrives on scene to begin investigation

NTSB provides update on deadly bus crash involving Farmingdale H.S. band 16:10

NTSB investigator John Humm said there is very little information at this time but explained seven investigators will be looking into three factors:  mechanical issues with the bus, regulation compliance of the carrier and survival factors.

"We look at the general crash worthiness of the bus, the restraint usage, the occupant injuries, and then the emergency response," Humm said.

Humm says their investigation, which is a parallel safety investigation with the cooperation of the New York State Police (NYSP), is expected to take about five to seven days, and that their goal is to find out what happened and make safety recommendations.

Two adults were killed and five students were critically injured when the bus overturned Thursday on the way to a band camp in Pennsylvania.

NYSP said there were 40 students and four adults on board when the bus careened off I-84 and toppled down a 50-foot ravine. The bus was the first in a caravan of six, and investigators are focusing on a suspected failure of a left front tire.

Humm says multiple occupants were ejected from the bus.

"Any time you get a type of rollover event, those are usually, again, complicated vehicle dynamics, so trying to figure out why they were ejected, you have to investigate a lot of things in that case, both the vehicle dynamics as well as restraints," Humm said.

NTSB investigators have not yet spoken to the driver and they could not provide an update on her condition at this time.

We have learned the state Department of Transportation last inspected the bus in August. The DOT says it also passed four random roadside inspections since 2021.

Meanwhile, the broken shell of the luxury charter bus now sits directly behind State Police Troop F in Middletown.

New York State Police members describe "mayhem" in wake of crash

Chopper 2 Flying

Chopper 2 is over New York State Police Troop F in Middletown, where the school bus was taken after yesterday's deadly crash involving students and staff from Farmingdale High School. Watch streaming now on CBS News New York:

Posted by CBS New York on Friday, September 22, 2023

Friday afternoon, video showed New York State Police technicians unloading much of the debris they removed from the crash scene.

First responders train for these events, but faced a huge challenge with dozens of victims dazed and frightened. CBS New York's Tony Aiello spoke with Trooper Jason Lewis, who was one of the first on the scene. 

"Once I got down to the scene, numerous children scattered around, crying, asking for their parents. Just as I would do with my two children, I aided to them, I cared for them, tried to calm them down. And then we started to walk through the brush and we started to look for the other children, if there were any other children that were thrown from the bus," he said.

Watch Tony Aiello's report

Investigation continues into deadly bus crash involving Farmingdale HS band 02:49

The adrenaline began pumping on the way to the accident site.

"Every piece of hair on my body was standing up. The goosebumps when you hear 'children," Lewis said.

"A bus down the embankment, debris scattered everywhere, numerous victims, EMTs tending to numerous victims," NYSP investigator Mark Whalen said.

"Getting people bandaged up, just checking vital signs. Triaging was a big thing, then making sure they were safely moved to a safe spot so they could be transported to the local hospitals," Lewis said.

Many of the first responders were themselves parents of school-age children. It only added to their determination to aid the injured.

"Responding there, it was... if my children were on a school trip. I just wanted to make sure they all got home safely or to the hospital to be treated," Lewis said.

Lewis told Aiello when he got home around 9 p.m. Thursday, he hugged his 22-year-old son and texted his daughter, who is away in college, letting them know how much he loved them.   

Learning more about the victims

Farmingdale community shaken after deadly school bus crash 02:05

The deceased victims were identified as 77-year-old Beatrice Ferrari, of Farmingdale, and 43-year-old Gina Pellettiere, of Massapequa.  

Ferrari was a retired history teacher who volunteered to chaperone the trip. The superintendent wrote in a letter she was the "heart and soul of their marching band program."

Pellettiere was the school's beloved marching band teacher. 

"She made school fun. She made life entertaining, and she brought a lot of joy to a lot of people whether they were in the band or not," said Christian Kalinowski, a former Farmingdale High School student and band member.

Many of those who were hospitalized after the accident have since been released, but three people remain in serious condition at Westchester Medical Center.

One first responders, who works for Empress EMS, also needed medical treatment after suffering chest pains from the excursion of going up and down the ravine in order to reach the bus.

One child who was on board said the crash felt like getting caught under a wave in the ocean.

"Once the rolling stopped, I saw a lot of blood and stuff. Kids' faces were bleeding," 14-year-old Timmy Broderick said. "They had the kids separated from the worst injuries to second worst to third worst."

Police are asking any drivers with dash cam video of the accident to contact state troopers.

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