Hundreds attend funeral for high school band director who died in bus crash

Emergency responders work the scene of a fatal bus crash, in Wawayanda, N.Y., Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. The charter bus carrying high school students to a band camp hurtled off a New York highway and down an embankment, officials said. (NBC New York via AP)

MASSAPEQUA PARK, N.Y. (AP) — A high school band director who died when a bus crashed while carrying students from New York to a band camp in Pennsylvania last week was remembered Thursday as a dedicated teacher with a zest for life.

Gina Pellettiere, who led Farmingdale High School’s marching band for more than a decade, “wasn’t just a good teacher, she was a great teacher,” Rita Padden, the school's former fine arts director, told mourners at Pellettiere's funeral in Massapequa Park on Long Island. “You hear from parents all the time: ‘Ms. P was the reason my son loved trumpet or band.’”

Pellettiere, 43, and retired teacher Beatrice Ferrari, 77, were killed on Sept. 21 when the charter bus they were riding in veered off a highway and crashed down an embankment on Interstate 84 in the town of Wawayanda, northwest of New York City.

Dozens of students were injured in the crash; officials said four remained hospitalized as of late Wednesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.

Newsday reports that hundreds of students, parents, co-workers and community members attended Pellettiere's funeral Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church.

Monsignor Jim Lisante said Pellettiere “was here to leave the world better than she found it.” Lisante asked, "Did Gina know she would live 43 years? Of course not, but she packed a lot into those years.”

Padden said Pellettiere “lived life to the fullest.”

Pellettiere's survivors include her parents and the 2-year-old son she was raising as a single mother.

The funeral for Ferrari, a retired social studies teacher who was serving as a chaperone on the band trip, took place Wednesday in Farmingdale and drew hundreds of mourners as well.