Long Island students who were in the convoy with a bus that crashed in upstate New York Thursday — killing two teachers and leaving five students in critical condition — gathered at their high school hours later to tearfully take in the horror.
They were greeted at Farmingdale High School by family members hugging them tight after the horror crash as one of the six buses in their convoy careened off the I-84 as they made their way to a band event in Pennsylvania.
Back at school, they also started a tribute with several lit candles, including two for the lost teachers — band director Gina Pellettiere, a 43-year-old single mom, and Beatrice Ferrari, 77, a history teacher who was also known as the “grandmother” of the marching band.
As they waited for news on their friends, many also worried about what would come next.
“What’s going to become of our band?” student Lucas Castillo Marquez said in an interview with News 12.
“It’s been such a big part of my high school career,” he said as he tried to hold back tears. “For our director not to be here anymore, it’s never something I would expect.”
Farmingdale residents described both Pellettiere and Ferrari as devoted teachers, who have always tried to inspire their students.
Ferrari, who had taught history at Farmingdale High School for more than 30 years, was known as the “grandmother” of the high school marching band, often serving as a chaperone on its trips to state and county music competitions, according to Newsday.
She had started her career in Brooklyn, then moved to Farmingdale, where her daughter, Dina Lopresto, said she would spend extra time with struggling students to get them to graduation.
In 2012, she was honored by the Town of Oyster Bay as a “Woman of Distinction.”
“She has affected the lives of thousands of young adults who went through Farmingdale High School, instilling many strong and positive qualities in each and every one of her students,” town officials said in a transcript from the ceremony.
“She not only encouraged her students to do their very best, but also mentored teachers who went through the district,” they said, noting that former students always greeted Ferrari with fondness and respect.
At home, Ferrari was known as the “glue of this family,” Lopresto said.
Pelletiere, meanwhile, “absolutely loved what she did,” said Jason Crachetti, who worked with her in the Huntington school district before she got the job in Farmingdale.
“It was obvious she loved what she did, and the kids loved her,” he told Newsday.
According to her biography on the website for Nassau-Suffolk Performing Arts, Pelletiere earned her bachelor of music degree in music education and her master’s degree in wind conducting from Long Island’s Hofstra University.
She was a member of several professional music educator associations, served as chairperson of Nassau All-County Division 5 Symphonic Band and was a guest conductor for both Nassau and Suffolk All-County Festivals.
Under her leadership at Farmingdale High School, its elite Level VI Wind Ensemble performed at the New York State School Music Association Large Organization Festival, and earned numerous honors from the organization.
Pelletiere was also a single mother.
“She was a great mom to Joseph — she always did stuff with him, took him everywhere,” one neighbor told News 12. “He’s been to more places than me.”
“I’m all shaken up hearing about this, it’s just devastating.”
The students were on their way to Pine Forest Camp in Greeley, PA, which rents out facilities on their grounds, when the bus overturned.
The fatal wreck appeared to have been caused by “a faulty front tire,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a news conference Thursday night.
Photos from the scene show the hellish aftermath, with the bus on its side at the bottom of a slope surrounded by trees. First responders appeared to use a ladder to climb to the side of the bus to assist victims.
Farmingdale High School remained open on Friday, with counselors and support staff available for students and staff.
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