Five of those killed after a terrorist plowed a truck through a Manhattan bike path were Argentine high school pals celebrating three decades of friendship.
The Argentine government identified the slain victims as Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernan Ferruchi.
Erlij was an established businessman crafting steel near his Rosario hometown, while Ferruchi was an architect. All of them were visiting New York City for what would be a fateful 30-year reunion.
The vacationers spent the brisk, sunny afternoon pedaling along the Hudson River when 29-year-old suspect Sayfullo Saipov stormed toward them in a rented Home Depot flatbed truck.
The merciless driver’s rampage left several bloodied victims and mangled bicycles in his wake.
A sixth Argentine with the group, Martin Marro, suffered critical injuries to his neck during the attack and is recovering at a lower Manhattan hospital, according to consulate and police sources.
The South American pals knew each other from a Rosario grade school about 200 miles northwest of Bueno Aires, according to Argentina’s Foreign Ministry.
The group posed for a photo minutes before boarding their flight from a Islas Malvinas airport, according to Argentine paper La Nacion. All of them were sporting “Libre” shirts, the Spanish word for free.
Erlij was unable to join them on the first flight, the paper reported. He left the next day.
He died at 4 p.m. after the attack, police sources said.
High-ranking cops rushed a fraught couple flanked by a member of the Argentine consulate into Lower Manhattan Hospital shortly after the rampage.
Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders said three people from his European nation were hurt in the attack, while a fourth died.
Ann-Laure Decadt, a 31-year-old mother-of-two, was visiting the city from Belgium with her two sisters and mother when she was hit the by the attacker. She died a half hour later at the Lower Manhattan Hospital.
Decadt’s family members, who had biking with her at the time, were not harmed “by the danger that came from behind” them.
Decadt’s husband Alexander Naessens described her as a “fantastic wife and the most beautiful mom to our two sons, 3 months and three years old.”
“The loss in unthinkable,” he added.
The attack claimed a total of eight victims, with about a dozen more injured. The suspect ended his rampage after ramming a school bus.
The crash sent the driver and at least one special needs student to a nearby hospital, according to police sources. Both have since been released from Bellevue Hospital.
Sources said four teens and a German tourist were also among the injured.
With Rocvo Parascandola, Dale W. Eisinger
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