Argentina mourns death of five friends in New York attack

ROSARIO, Argentina,  (Reuters) – Argentines yesterday mourned the loss of five high school buddies from the city of Rosario who were mowed down the day before while enjoying a bike ride in New York during a trip to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their graduation.

“They went to celebrate life, and found death,” Jorge Cetta, a spokesman for the victims’ 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.

In Buenos Aires, Argentine President Mauricio Macri praised the five architects and businessmen as model citizens.

“We must all stand together in the fight against terrorism,” he said at an event in the capital. The president has a previously scheduled trip to New York next week and on Wednesday spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who expressed his condolences, Macri’s office said.

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.

The Argentine government identified the other four dead as Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco and Hernán Ferruchi, whose son studies at the same high school. The victims 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.

Their high school is a 111-year-old polytechnic institution focusing on engineering careers.

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