5 Argentines on high school reunion trip among dead in New York attack

By James Masters, CNN

(CNN) -- Five friends from Argentina celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation were among the eight people killed in Tuesday's terror attack in New York.

Argentina's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the deaths of Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi.

The five men, all from the community of Rosario, died after a man drove a rental pickup truck onto a crowed bike path near the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.

Another victim was identified as a Ann-Laure Decadt, a Belgian mother of two who died Tuesday night at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, according to a statement from her husband, Alexander Naessens.

"She was on a city trip with her two sisters and her mother. They were with Ann-Laure at the time of the attack but are fortunately unharmed. Ann-Laure turned 31 years old and was a fantastic wife and the most beautiful mom to our two sons of 3 months and 3 years old. This loss is unbearable and difficult to understand," Naessens wrote.

The other two victims were identified as Darren Drake, 32, of New Milford, New Jersey, and Nicholas Cleves, 23, of New York, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation.

Superintendent Michael Polizzi of the New Milford Public School District said in a statement that Drake graduated from New Milford High and served on the local board of education from 2009 to 2013.

"Darren was a good man with a soft touch and huge heart. He is respected for his unwavering commitment to the children of New Milford and their education," Polizzi wrote. "In addition to his insights into the needs of students, he brought to the board significant business acumen, intelligence and humor. He was friendly, fully engaged and forward-thinking."

Cleves recently graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. The college, in a statement, said the victim was living in New York and worked as a software engineer, analyst and web developer.

"An incident of terrorism that takes the lives of innocent people anywhere in the world touches each of us in our fundamental humanity," the statement said. "But the effect is more pronounced -- and far more personal -- when our community is directly linked to such a horrendous event."

More than a dozen others were wounded, and officials said nine of them remained in the hospital Wednesday afternoon. Four of those patients are in critical but stable condition.

Among the injuries were a bilateral amputation, and trauma to the head, neck, chest and back, officials said.

A sixth Argentine national who was part of the group of friends was injured during the attack. He is out of danger, the ministry said, and as of Tuesday night, he was recovering at New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital.

On Twitter, Argentine President Mauricio Macri said he was "(d)eeply moved by the tragic deaths this afternoon in NY. We put ourselves at the disposition of the families of the Argentinian victims."

Argentine Deputy Jose Nunez was a friend of Erlij's and told CNN en Español that Erlij was a successful businessman who loved his family of four children.

"We are losing a great man, a great businessman and a great family man," Nunez said.

The group had traveled to New York from Rosario, a city nearly 200 miles northwest of the capital of Buenos Aires. They were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their graduation from the Polytechnic School.

In a statement, the school said it "expresses its sincere condolences to the families of the victims of the attack," adding: "We accompany all your loved ones in their pain."

The German Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that a German woman was also among those injured.

The suspect has been identified as Sayfullo Saipov, 29, according to two law enforcement sources. He is accused of driving the truck onto the bike path, crashing it into a school bus and then stepping outside and brandishing imitation firearms.

A police officer shot him in the abdomen, and he underwent surgery at a local hospital.


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