I-84 bus crash highlights flaws in highway design

Wawayanda. The tragedy may inspire safety changes on the highway.

| 27 Sep 2023 | 12:33

On Thursday, September 21, a devasting bus accident took the lives of two adults and left five students in critical condition. However, on Tuesday of this week, the New York State Police said the five students were all recovering and had been downgraded to “less critical care.”

But on the day of the crash, Beatrice Ferrari, 77, of Farmingdale, NY, was pronounced dead at Westchester Medical Center and Gina Pellettiere, 43, of Massapequa, NY, was pronounced dead at the scene.

While driving westbound on I-84, the bus, carrying 44 passengers from the Farmingdale school district in Long Island, tumbled down a 50-foot ravine near Exit 15A, closing the highway for several hours. At the time, most of the passengers were described as being injured in some capacity, requiring multiple area ambulances and helicopters to help transport them to local hospitals for care. In a statement, Governor Kathy Hochul said the rescue process took roughly 45 minutes “because of the efforts of an incredible amount of teamwork.”

Hochul said the preliminary determination is that a faulty front tire contributed to the accident. State police continue to investigate the crash and have asked for anyone with footage of the incident to share it with them.

The crash inspired area lawmakers to speak out in favor of a “crash gate” off I-84 to allow for immediate roadway access by emergency responders.

In a joint statement, Senator James Skoufis (D-42), Assemblyman Karl Brabenec (R-98), and Wawayanda Supervisor Denise Quinn called on the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) and Governor Hochul to advance funding for the crash gate. They noted that state police have been calling for such an emergency access point between the Goshen and Mountain Road exits, a more than 10-mile stretch of interstate, for over 20 years.

They also suggested that if a crash gate had been installed, it could have cut last Thursday’s emergency response times by 10 to 15 minutes. As it stands, the current access points require local responders to travel several miles east or west of an accident scene before gaining entry.

“When lifesaving care is needed, every second counts,” said Skoufis. “Supervisor Quinn and the dedicated first responders who work in and around Wawayanda know all too well how detrimental this lack of interstate access has been in times of emergency, like what we saw last Thursday. I urge the DOT and Governor Hochul to prioritize this long-awaited investment, which will literally save lives on this heavily trafficked route and limit strain on our first responder’s resources.”

“There are numerous motor vehicle accidents and incidents that happen on this stretch of Interstate 84,” said Brabenec. “This emergency entrance is critical to improving response time for our first responders and ultimately saving lives. This project has been unnecessarily delayed for several years, which is unacceptable, and that’s why it is crucial to get it completed as soon as possible. The Senator and I will continue our efforts advocating to the Governor and executive branch agencies to finally get this done.”