miércoles, mayo 22

Investigators Comb Through Bus Crash That Killed 2 and Injured Dozens

Investigators continued on Friday to comb through the wreckage of a bus that went off a New York highway and overturned while carrying a Long Island high school marching band to Pennsylvania the day before, killing two people and injuring dozens of others.

Although Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Thursday that a faulty front tire appeared to have caused the bus to veer off the road, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, the New York State Police and the Orange County, N.Y., Sheriff’s Office were seeking to determine whether other factors may have been involved, officials said. In a news conference on Friday afternoon, John Humm, an investigator with the N.T.S.B., said it was too early to determine what had caused the incident, but said several people had been ejected from the bus. Mr. Humm said he expected his team to be on site for five to seven days.

One of the two people killed in the crash, Gina Pellettiere, suffered injuries to her head and torso when the bus tumbled down a 50-foot ravine on a stretch of Interstate 84 in the town of Wawayanda, officials said. The second person killed in the crash, Beatrice Ferrari, died while being taken to a hospital, officials said.

Ms. Pellettiere, 43, and Ms. Ferrari, 77, were among four adults and 40 students from Farmingdale High School who were on one of six coach buses taking the marching band on its annual trip to a camp in Pennsylvania. Ms. Pellettiere was the band’s beloved director; Ms. Ferrari was a volunteer chaperone.

At least five people, including several students, were critically injured. One, a freshman, was released to his parents on Friday morning after getting stitches and staples in his head and body, said Ralph Ekstrand, Farmingdale’s mayor.

Another freshman, a girl whose spine was fractured, was taken from Westchester Medical Center to Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park on Long Island, Mr. Ekstrand said. Nearly 20 other people, most of them students, were still being treated at other hospitals, officials said.

Mr. Humm said that his team planned to interview all of the victims, including the bus driver.

Naomi Luke, 14, a freshman at Farmingdale High School, was on FaceTime with her best friend, who was with her bandmates on the bus that crashed, when she heard the screech of tires.

The image on Naomi’s phone spun, her mother, Carolina, said in an interview. When her friend’s face reappeared on the screen, it was covered with blood. The girl had a broken nose and cuts on her tongue and lips, Ms. Luke said.

Santino Talavera, 17, a senior at Farmingdale High School who plays the trumpet, was riding on the bus behind the one that crashed when it jolted to a stop. Almost immediately, students began standing up and craning their necks to look out the windows.

“I stood up and I saw the bus lying literally in the ditch, on its side,” he said. “I felt like it was a dream.”

As people on his bus absorbed what had happened, they got very quiet. “We were just at a loss for words,” he said.

Santino said the bus sat parked on the side of the highway for about two hours as emergency workers responded to the scene. He watched as people on stretchers were wheeled past his window.

Classes were in session at the high school on Friday, but a football game scheduled for the evening was canceled, as were other after-school competitions that had been planned for the weekend.

Bruce Blakeman, the Nassau County executive, said at a news briefing that counselors would be available through at least next week.

Rose Walker, a Nassau County legislator whose district includes Farmingdale, said at the briefing that the crash was “personal” for her.

“I know many of these children, the staff,” Ms. Walker said. “I always tell them when we’re at anything together that although they don’t live in my house, they’re all my kids.”

Ms. Walker said that she had known Ms. Pellettiere, the band director, since Ms. Pellettiere was in grade school. Ms. Pellettiere “had a love for music,” Ms. Walker said, and was a drum major in high school.

“It was a dream to go further with her career, and she did. She became that band director over at Farmingdale High School,” Ms. Walker said.

Ms. Luke, who was Ms. Pellettiere’s classmate decades ago at Hicksville High School, said she played “every instrument” and was known for her sense of personal style.

She described spending Friday morning looking at Ms. Pellettiere’s picture in the high school yearbook. “She was the light of the classroom,” Ms. Luke said.

Sarah Maslin Nir and Ellen Yan contributed reporting. Kirsten Noyes contributed research.