It was a school trip that took longer than planned. Much longer.
Students from Fort Hamilton High School in Bay Ridge were stranded overnight by the side of the road on a Florida highway after their charter bus broke down.
The mishap took place while the teens, who are members of the school’s marching band, were returning home after competing in a school band contest in Disneyworld in Orlando.
The students and their teachers were stuck for more than eight hours with no air conditioning in the Florida heat, frustrated parents told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “People are disappointed with the slow response from the bus company and the authorities in Florida. No one seemed to sense the urgency of the situation. The police down there said there was nothing they could do,” said one man whose wife served as a chaperone on the trip.
A group of 130 students were on the trip, making their way from Florida back to Brooklyn on two charter buses owned by Coach USA. The mechanical failure took place on one of the buses as the caravan was traveling on Interstate 4 near Orlando at around 11 p.m. on Sunday. When the vehicle's operating system malfunctioned, the air conditioning system went off.
One student told Eyewitness News that the electricity also went out, meaning that kids could not charge their phones
Even though only one of the two buses broke down, Assistant Principal Tom Oberle, who was on the trip, decided to keep the group of students together, the New York Daily News reported.
Coach USA dispatched a mechanic to the scene to try and repair the bus, but the worker was unable to get the vehicle running again.
The Fort Hamilton contingent waited several more hours for a replacement bus to arrive so that they could continue their journey back home. Even with a fully functioning bus, the trip normally takes close to 24 hours.
The tired students and their chaperones finally arrived back in Brooklyn at around 4 a.m. on Tuesday.
Fort Hamilton Principal Kaye Hoolihan praised Oberle for keeping his cool under stressful circumstances. “The school’s main concern is always the safety and care of students. Our Assistant Principal Thomas Oberle has been an amazing leader throughout the trip and handling the delay,” she said in a statement released by the New York City Department of Education.
Hoolihan also stated that she had been in frequent touch with the students’ parents during the ordeal and informed them as to when they could expect their kids to come home.