Lawsuit: Charter firm, driver liable in Farmingdale High bus crash

The father of a Farmingdale High School student injured in last week’s upstate bus crash has filed what is believed to be the first related lawsuit, alleging that negligence and “careless acts” by a Nesconset charter and the bus driver caused the deadly wreck.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the Supreme Court of Orange County on behalf of Lawrence Doreson of Massapequa and his 14-year-old daughter, accuses Regency Transportation and bus driver Lisa Schaffer of “failing to properly keep, control and maintain the motor vehicle so as to prevent the incident herein.”

Damages sought are not specified in the lawsuit. A message left with Regency’s answering service was not immediately returned. Schaffer could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Forty students and four adults were aboard the bus Sept. 21 when it crashed down an embankment on Interstate 84 in Orange County as it headed toward a band camp in Pennsylvania. Gina Pellettiere, 43, the Farmingdale High band director from Massapequa, and Farmingdale resident Beatrice Ferrari, 77, a retired social studies teacher and a longtime marching band chaperone, were killed in the crash. Dozens of students were injured.

Hundreds of Farmingdale students, graduates and community members have turned out this week for wakes and funerals for both beloved band leaders.
National Transportation Safety Board officials interviewed Centereach resident Schaffer, the bus driver, Saturday.

They are looking into multiple possible factors behind the crash, including a faulty left tire, mechanical issues and driver error.

Doreson, reached Thursday evening by phone, declined to comment. Andrew Finkelstein, managing partner of Jacoby & Meyers, the personal injury firm representing Doreson and his daughter, said the teenager was hospitalized with “facial fractures” and “facial scarring” after the crash.

“There’s the possibility of permanent disfigurement;• he said. “We’re hopeful the plastic surgeon will be able to operate in such a way that there isn’t, but we don’t know the answer to that yet.”

The girl, and others on the bus, have been emotionally traumatized, Finkelstein said.

“Every child on that bus will have triggering events … whether it’s sitting in a movie theater and seeing a bus crash on the screen or walking down the street and seeing a bus pass by,” he said. State and federal inspection records show differing views of the safety record of the bus company. The state Department of Transportation included Regency on a list of “unacceptable” companies this year. Federal inspectors, however, list the bus company’s safety record as “satisfactory” with better-than-average performance compared with national averages.

Finkelstein said his firm would consult with experts to determine the precise cause of the crash.

“Buses do not leave the roadway and go down a ravine unless there was negligence by some party …. This was not an act of God.”

Toure Law Center professor Richard Klein said the suit filed Thursday could be the first of many.

“We don’t yet know what the results of any scientific examination of any possible causes of the crash will be, but we do know tort lawyers …. Lawyers tend to target anyone who might be responsible.”