The Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Tuesday five of the eight victims killed in the New York City terrorist attack were Argentine nationals, with another Argentine citizen wounded in the attack carried out by 29-year-old Uzbek terrorist Sayfullo Saipov, with five Argentine citizens treated in New York hospitals in total.
The victims—Ariel Erlij, Hernan Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damian Pagnucco, and Hernan Ferruchi—were part of a group of eight childhood friends who came to New York to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their graduation from the Polytechnic School of Rosario and were in the midst of a bike-riding trip when they were hit by Saipov's truck.
"Argentina unequivocally denounces terrorist attacks and all forms of violence," the Argentine consulate in New York said in a statement.
Erlij, a 48-year-old Argentine Jew, was a businessman who owned a steel plant in Rosario. According to Argentine news site Infobae, he paid the fare for two of his former classmates as they could not afford the trip to the US for personal reasons. Argentine newspaper La Nación, meanwhile, reported Erlij paid for the entire trip out of pocket.
Victims took group photo before trip wearing shirts with the word 'Free'
Sources told the Yeshiva World News site Erlij was rushed to the hospital in very serious condition and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
The Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs published an announcement communication its condolences to the families of the victims. "The men, Rosario natives, were part of a group of friends celebrating the 30th anniversary of their graduation from the Polytechnic School of Rosario when tragedy struck," the ministry said.
"The Consulate General continues keeping in constant communication with the police and hospital that received the wounded, as well as with their relatives in Argentina. We accompany the families in this horrible moment of deep pain, one shared by Argentines everywhere," the ministry concluded.
Argentina's Consul to New York Mateo Estreme told Rosario's La Capital paper that the four survivors from the Argentine group were all in a state of shock. Several days before their trip, the eight childhood friends took a group photo in which they were wearing identical t-shirts emblazoned with the word "Libre" ("Free").
Argentina's President Mauricio Macri tweeted, "Deeply moved by the tragic deaths of this afternoon in NY. We are at disposal of the families of the Argentine victims."
On Tuesday, a little after 3 pm eastern time, Saipov drove a rented truck onto a bike path near south Manhattan's Chambers Street and ran over cyclists and pedestrians, killing eight and wounding a dozen more. The terrorist continued driving until he hit a school bus.
Profundamente conmovido por las trágicas muertes de esta tarde en NY. Nos ponemos a disposición de los familiares de las víctimas argentinas— Mauricio Macri (@mauriciomacri) November 1, 2017
After the collision, he disembarked from his vehicle carrying two imitation weapons—a paintball gun and an airsoft gun—and screamed, "Allahu akbar" as he tried making his getaway.
An off-duty police officer incapacitated Saipov by shooting him and he was arrested and taken to a hospital, which said he underwent surgery and was in serious condition.