GOSHEN – Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus had the opportunity to thank many of the first responders who responded to last month’s Farmingdale High bus accident on Interstate 84 in Wawayanda at an after-action review on Tuesday, October 3rd at the Emergency Services Center (ESC).
“I have been moved by all the messages I’ve received from County residents offering compassionate well wishes to the victims, and thanking and commending our first responders,” Neuhaus said. “Like you, I was inspired by their quick and efficient action and I thank them for their unwavering dedication to the community. I also want to acknowledge SUNY Orange, Orange-Ulster BOCES, the City of Middletown Police, and Enlarged City School District of Middletown and the Orange County Department of Mental Health who collaborated to set up a family reunification center at SUNY Orange. We hope we never need it, but this incident tested our training and fortunately, our procedures passed the test.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, County Executive Neuhaus had the chance to meet the first person at the scene of the fatal accident, Hayden Thompson, a lieutenant from the Westfall Township (Pa.) Fire Department. Thompson was working his full-time job as a truck driver when he passed by the wreck. Without hesitation, he immediately jumped into action to help the injured victims as additional personnel arrived at the chaotic scene. Thompson was quickly joined by Orange County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Brian Kelly, Silver Lake Fire District Chief Mike Morstatt, and Slate Hill Fire Department Chief Shaun Graham, who were the first emergency responders to arrive.
“These first-on-scene responders set the tone for what was a brave and amazing effort to save lives and mitigate injuries,” Neuhaus said. “The hundreds of selfless men and women from multiple County and municipal agencies should be proud of themselves. Your neighbors here in Orange County and the Farmingdale community are very grateful.”
Neuhaus also thanked the New York State Police, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Orange County Fire Services, Orange County Office of Emergency Management and the police, fire and EMS agencies that responded to the accident.
Forty-five people were injured and two were killed in the incident. The accident claimed the lives of the school’s band director and an adult chaperone on the trip and sent most students to area hospitals. All the injured students are expected to recover, according to the Farmingdale School superintendent. The purpose of Tuesday’s after-action meeting was to review the response and make recommendations and suggestions for responses to potential large-scale emergencies in the future.