Argentina mourns death of five friends in New York attack

Argentinian city in the spotlight after NY terror attack

Reuters November 02, 2017
A woman reacts as people place candles outside the Instituto Politecnico, a technical high school, where the five Argentine citizens who were killed in the truck attack in New York on October 31 went to school, in Rosario, Argentina November 1, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

ROSARIO: Argentines on Wednesday mourned the loss of five friends from the city of Rosario, who were mowed down the day before while enjoying a bike ride in New York City during a trip to celebrate 30 years since their high school graduation.

"They went to celebrate life, and found death," Jorge Cetta, a spokesman for the men's high school, said in an interview. Flags flew at half-staff in Rosario, and the city declared three days of mourning.

On the banks of the Parana River in northern Argentina, Rosario is the country's main grain exporting hub, as well as hometown to leftist revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and soccer great Lionel Messi. A total of eight people were killed and 11 injured in lower Manhattan when an Uzbek immigrant drove a rental truck down a popular bike path along the Hudson River.

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In Buenos Aires, Argentine President Mauricio Macri praised his five countrymen, who were architects and businessmen, as entrepreneurs and model citizens. "We must all stand together in the fight against terrorism," he said at an event in the capital.

The family and employees of one of the victims - businessman Ariel Erlij - remembered the victims in a letter to the Argentine newspaper Clarin. "This is sad news for the world, but even more so for those of us who had the opportunity of getting to know them," the letter read.

Argentina's foreign ministry identified the other four dead as Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco and Hernán Ferruchi. Local news media said they were 48 to 49 years old. A sixth Argentine, Martin Ludovico Marro, was injured and was hospitalized in Manhattan, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Four other members of the group were unharmed, according to an Argentina consular official in New York. The high school they graduated from is a polytechnic institution, focusing on engineering and technical careers. The trip had been organized by Erlij, whose Rosario-based company, Ivnar, distributes steel products. The businessman reportedly helped some of his friends pay for the holiday.

"He was a lot more than a great father and a great businessman," said the letter in Clarin. "He was, more than anything else, a great person who knew how to instill perseverance and commitment in every aspect of this life." A picture of the friends at the airport before they flew to New York, published by Clarin, showed eight men grinning with arms linked, wearing matching white T-shirts that said 'Libre', or 'Free' in Spanish.

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A director of the high school, Alicia Oliva, said one of the victims had a child studying there. "We will have a week of mourning, starting with a minute of silence for our students today," she told journalists in Rosario. "There were strong links among these friends and for that reason they had decided to take this trip together after 30 years."

The incident marked the deadliest single attack on New York City since suicide hijackers crashed jetliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, killing more than 2,600 people. Argentina has been spared the attacks that have plagued Europe and North America in recent years, though Buenos Aires suffered deadly attacks on the Israeli Embassy and the AMIA Jewish Community center decades ago.


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