A 77-year-old retired teacher who died Thursday afternoon when a charter bus carrying high school band students rolled down an embankment in New York was remembered by her daughter as “the glue of this family.”
Brooklyn native Beatrice Ferarri, who taught for 32 years at Farmingdale High School on Long Island, was accompanying the youngsters as they headed to band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania. The annual trip is a tradition for the school district, which NBC New York reports has ballooned to include as many as 300 students every year. “Grandma Bea” had actually stopped teaching 17 years ago but continued to volunteer as a chaperone, daughter Dina LoPresto told Newsday.
She had become close with Farmingdale HS band director Gina Pellettiere, who, like Ferrari, also did not survive the crash.
“[M]y mom was very special in that she always liked to be a mentor to the new teachers that would come on board at her school, and she and Gina developed a friendship just by being across the hall,” another daughter of Ferrari’s, Angela Ferrari-Aldieri, told NBC News. ‘And Gina said we have to keep this tradition, you have to keep coming to band camp.”
Pellettiere, 43, was a trumpet player but was proficient at some 20 different instruments, according to Newsday. One former colleague told the paper that “it was obvious [Pellettiere] loved what she did… and the kids loved her.”
“She was easily one of the best in the school, always full of energy, happy and uplifting people,” a student told PIX11.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said at a news briefing that a preliminary investigation revealed that a faulty front tire may have been to blame for the devastating crash, which left five students in critical condition and as many as 46 requiring medical attention. Most of the students injured were ninth graders.
“Imagine the fear, the screams and the aftermath when these high school students, many of them freshmen, were surrounded by this chaos,” Hochul said at the press conference.
The charter overturned on I-84 near the town of Wawayanda in Orange County shortly after 1 p.m.
Desperate family members took to social media following the crash to ask for prayers. One man said his grandson was on the bus, but was waiting anxiously to learn the extent of the boy’s injuries. (He later posted an update saying he had just FaceTimed with his grandson, who had “minor injuries, bumps and bruises, but he saw some things that will probably remain with him for quite a while.”)
The doomed bus was part of a six-bus caravan heading to Greeley, Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano said on a call-in to the CBS News studio.
The section of I-84 where the crash occurred is “not really a hazardous area,” according to DeStefano, who also noted the four-lane highway is a 65mph zone and sees heavy tractor-trailer traffic.