The transportation company that owns the bus involved in a fatal crash in New York this week while bringing high school students to a band camp was listed as an “unacceptable operator” by the state after failing several safety inspections since 2022.
New York State Department of Transportation records show the bus operator, Regency Transportation Ltd., had failed five out of 15 total safety inspections during the state’s 2023 fiscal year, department spokesperson Joseph Morrissey said Friday. The agency conducts more than 150,000 safety inspections each year as part of its bus safety program.
The bus was carrying about 40 students on Farmingdale High School’s marching band from Long Island to a band camp in Pennsylvania when it careened off Interstate 84, crashed through a wire guard rail and flipped over repeatedly down the ravine in Wawayanda, about 70 miles northwest of New York City, according to New York State Police Trooper Jason Lewis.
Two longtime teachers, Gina Pellettiere and Beatrice Ferrari, were killed and multiple students were injured in the crash, police said.
The bus was new to Regency Transportation’s fleet and was inspected by New York’s transportation department for the first time in August 2023, according to Morrissey. It had passed its semi-annual inspection and underwent four additional random roadside inspections since 2021, Morrissey said, passing each of them. One of those inspections was conducted by the state’s transportation department, while the other three were done in other states.
Bus operators with a 25% or higher out-of-service rate, or vehicles that fail inspection, are rated “unacceptable,” according to the transportation agency. Regency Transportation Ltd.’s rate was 33% in the state’s 2023 fiscal year, department records show.
Operators listed under the “unacceptable” category are required to undergo at least two comprehensive safety inspections every year. They also may face a number of “corrective actions,” including violation notices leading to civil penalties and the suspension or revocation of interstate operating authority, according to New York’s transportation department.
Other buses operated by the company failed seven safety inspections over the past two years, Morrissey confirmed to CNN. Most of the problems investigators identified were related to braking systems, and those buses were immediately taken out of service “until rectified by the operator and verified by our inspectors,” Morrissey told CNN. Investigators also identified recordkeeping and rear axle issues on a few of them, he added.
Regency Transportation Ltd. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Preliminary information suggests a faulty front tire may have contributed to the crash, authorities said Thursday evening.
But the investigation continues, and a team from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived Friday to probe what led up to the tragedy.
The agency, as of Friday, hadn’t yet spoken with the driver of the bus but was planning to as soon as possible, depending on her injuries, NTSB Investigator in Charge John Humm said during a Friday news conference. Humm said he didn’t know the status of her condition.
A team of seven NTSB investigators will remain at the crash site for the next few days, aiming to zero in on factors that may have led to the crash, Humm said. They will also work to determine whether the bus had a dash camera.
CNN’s Holly Yan, Caroll Alvarado and Omar Jimenez contributed to this report.
For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com