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article imageNYC trip to celebrate friendship ends in tragedy for Argentines

By Alexandre PEYRILLE (AFP)     Nov 1, 2017 in World

It was a trip to celebrate friendship, an adventure in the Big Apple for 10 once rambunctious and now middle-aged Argentine guys who'd known each other since high school.

But the randomness of terrorism struck them, more than 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) from home.

Five of those buddies died on the New York City bike path that was the scene of Tuesday's truck attack by an Uzbek immigrant who says he acted on behalf of the Islamic State group. Another Argentine was injured.

They were class-of-1987 alumni of a prestigious polytechnical school in the northeastern city of Rosario, a school one of its teachers described as so nurturing it was like a home.

(L-R) Hernan Ferrucci  Alejandro Pagnucco  Ariel Erlij  Hernan Mendoza and Diego Angelini in Rosario...
(L-R) Hernan Ferrucci, Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij, Hernan Mendoza and Diego Angelini in Rosario, Argentina moments before traveling to New York on October 28, 2017

The men went on to work as architects or businessmen and did well. One of them, manager of a steel factory, had treated some of the others to the plane fare to New York for the week-long stay, news reports here said.

The five who died were identified as Alejandro Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij, Hernan Ferruchi, Hernan Mendoza and Diego Angelini.

Students at the school -- formally called the General San Martin Higher Polytechnical Institute -- began the day with a minute of silence honoring the victims of the attack, which left a total of eight people dead and 12 injured.

The school board decreed five days of mourning with the flag at half-mast.

- Detachment -

Argentines in general observe with a degree of detachment the terrorist violence that periodically hits the United States, Europe, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called his Argentine counterpart Jorge Faurie Wednesday to express his condolences.

Laura Racca, a class of '87 graduate who once worked with Angelini, a father of four, said the trip these men took illustrated the strong bonds that students form at the polytechnical school. It is public and highly respected, and draws its student body from various socio-economic strata.

"You would think that after 30 years they would not even meet for coffee. But no, they would go on vacation together," said Racca.

"This school is like a homeland," said Ricardo Berlot, who teaches computer science and had all five of the slain men as students.

"They were a tight-knit group, rebels. They knew what they wanted and they fought hard to achieve it," said Berlot.

He added: "I could not believe it when I heard it. It is sad. We feel so far removed from all that."

One of the survivors, Martin Ludovico Marro, was hurt in the attack and was being treated at the Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan with non-life-threatening injuries.

The truck missed another, Ariel Benvenuto, by about eight inches (20 cm).

His wife, Cecilia Piedrabuena, said that minutes after the attack she got a call from a number she did not recognize. It was her husband, saying he and two others of the group were OK but the rest were in bad shape.

Silvia Goldberg, the mother of a teenage student at the school now, said she was speechless when she saw the news on television.

"I can't stop thinking that they took the trip to celebrate their friendship," Goldberg said.

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