A motorcycle ride, smiles and a peace sign: footage demonstrates Argentinians before truck attack

Ariel Erlij, Hernn Ferrucchi, Alejandro Pagnucco, Hernn Mendoza and Diego Angelini were celebrating the 30 th anniversary of their graduation in New York when the attacker struck

Two days into their journey to celebrate the 30 th anniversary of their graduation from the school, the group of friends confiscated on the warm autumn day to make the most of their visit to New York City.

They wandered the city’s sites and stocked up on keepsakes for their families. Later in the afternoon they rented motorcycles, smiling and snapping selfies as they rode alongside the Hudson River.

A video taken by one member of the group shows the men waving as they cycled two-by-two down the cycle route under a clear blue autumn sky. One flashes the peace sign, another a thumbs-up.” That’s it, champ ,” says one.” A motorcycle ride: very, very good ,” is the last comment on the clip.

Minutes later five members of the group would be among the eight people killed and 11 wounded as motorist Sayfullo Saipov, 29, originally from Uzbekistan, allegedly ploughed a pickup truck down a crowded bike route along the Hudson riverin Manhattan on Tuesday, before being shot by a police officer. It was the most severe terrorist attack in New York since 11 September 2001.

In the Argentinian city of Rosario, the white and blue national flag at the San Martin Polytechnic flew at half-mast on Wednesday, as the country mourned the dead.

The five Argentinian victims were all well-known designers and tycoons in Rosario, an economic powerhouse- and the hometown of Ernesto ” Che ” Guevara and Lionel Messi.

They had travelled from Argentina on Sunday for a trip-up to New York and Boston, near where one of their classmates lives.

A picture taken at Rosario airport shows them garmented in matching white T-shirts emblazoned with the word “libre”( Spanish for “free”) which had been designed specially for the journey. Merely three of the group survived Tuesday’s attack.

The other five- Ariel Erlij, Hernan Ferrucchi, Alejandro Pagnucco, Hernan Mendoza and Diego Angelini – all died after being run down by the truck in Lower Manhattan.

The group had travelled to New York to meet two other former schoolmates, one of whom, Martin Marro, survived the truck attack but remains in hospital.

” It was the first time they had all gone abroad together ,” said Cecilia Piedrabuena, the spouse of one of the survivors, Ariel Benvenuto.

On Tuesday afternoon, the 10 friends rented bikes and planned to cycle around Central Park and then cross Brooklyn Bridge, she told LT8 radio.

At 4.45 pm, Piedrabuena received a bellow from her husband, who told her he was alive- but that something terrible had happened.

The class of 1987 former schoolmates, all between 47 and 49 years old, were riding their rented motorcycles on West Street when they were mown down by the truck attacker.

Her husband was cycling closer to the the central flowerbed.” All those who were on the right were rammed. He heard the acceleration[ of the motor] and the vehicle ran over his five friends. He was 20 cm away from being hit.

” They were 10 friends from high school who always got together. What happened is terrible ,” she said.

Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri, described the men as” model citizens in Rosario society”, adding:” We all must stand together in the war against terrorism .”

In Rosario, the men were known as avid sports fans who had- through college, job, matrimony and fatherhood- maintained their close friendship over the decades since they left school in 1987.

One of the victims, Ariel Erlij, 48, a wealthy steel mill owned and parent of three young boys, had paid the air fares for some members of the group who could not afford the trip.

” He was a great, great father, a great friend, a very generous guy ,” Gustavo Scaglione- a friend of Erlij- told local reporters.” Rosario has lost a great businessman. He was a machine of doing things. But most of all he was a great guy .”

Another of the victims, Hernan Ferruchi, was a successful architect who designed luxury high rises built along the Parana river, which flows through Rosario.

Hernan Mendoza and Alejandro Pagnucco were also well-known designers in Rosario. They had not only been high school mates but also analyse architecture together. Mendoza was a rugby aficionado and Pagnucco had three daughters.

” We’re a very tight group, that’s how our school formed us ,” said Jorge Nid, another classmate who stayed behind in Rosario and who heard the news from one of the survivors in a Whatsapp message from New York.” I can’t understand it, I can’t get it through my head .”

Student reunions at the San Martin Polytechnic are a well-established tradition in the city of Rosario, sometimes drawing thousands of past pupils, friends and relatives each year to celebrate.

Alicia Oliva, a director of the school, said one of the victims had a child studying there, and announced a week of mourning.” We would like to express our deepest sadness, and espouse all your loved ones in this difficult moment that nobody, ever, should have to bear ,” the school said in a statement posted on Instagram.

The attack marked Argentina’s worst death toll from a terror attack since the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed.

Another graduate of the school, Laura Racca, said:” Because you come from Argentina, far from wars and terrorism, you have a sensation that nothing is going to happen to you. It’s this craziness of globalization of which we are not exempt: we are far away from everything but this can also happen .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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