A video has emerged showing a group of Argentinian friends laughing and cycling in Manhattan shortly before the truck terror attack that killed five of them.
The five who died were in a group of ten friends from Argentina on vacation in New York to celebrate their high school reunion, before they perished in the terror attack Wednesday.
A sixth member of the group, Martín Ludovico Marro, remains hospitalized in intensive care and is expected to survive, but has not yet learned the heartbreaking news that five of his close friends perished.
The dead Argentinians, who were among eight who died in the attack, have been identified as Ariel Erlij, Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Alejandro Pagnucco and Hernán Ferruchi. All were 47, except for Erlis, who was 48.
‘They came here like millions of other visitors to see the sights, and see the greatest city on earth,’ said federal prosecutor Joon H. Kim on Wednesday, while announcing terror charges against suspect Sayfullo Saipov, 29, who will face the death penalty in the case.
It is not clear how long the video was shot before the deadly truck attack, but it depicts the friends biking along the west side of Manhattan, heading south toward the Tribeca location where the terrorist struck the bike path shortly after 3pm.
‘They were riding two by two, heard a noise, and saw in seconds that a truck was running over them. It was like hell, with bodies everywhere, people crying, people trying to flee,’ the Argentine consul in New York, Mateo Estreme, told the Buenos Aries daily Clarin.
‘They lived moments of companionship, of friendship, they bought gifts for their children, their families, many of them had their gifts with them,’ Estreme said in Spanish.
‘They thought of their families and imagine this terrorist moving forward with his truck … it is unthinkable, terribly sad and none of us has words to describe it,’ the diplomat went on.
‘One of them, it was the first time he left Argentina… and the first time he leaves the country a terrorist kills him in New York,’ said Estreme. ‘There are no words to describe that.’
The Argentinian victims were in a larger group of men who were all celebrating their 30th school reunion.
A sixth man in the group of Argentinians, Martin Ludovico Marro, was also hospitalized in the incident, which killed a total of eight people and injured 12.
Erlij, who runs a steel mill in Argentina, had paid out of his own pocket to ensure two of the members of the group could be there, local news reported.
The Argentine government confirmed Tuesday night that most of the group – all in the class of 1987 – had flown to New York for a school reunion.
Erlij, 48, who owned the Argentinian steel company Ivanar, had paid for flights for two of his friends so they could attend, according to Infobae.
On arriving in New York, the group was met by Marro, the man who was injured in the attack. Though born in Argentina, he is now a resident of Newton, Connecticut, Wicked Local reported.
All of them had graduated from a polytechnic college in the Argentinian city of Rosario and had been in the city several days when the incident occurred, according to Argentinian newspaper La Nacion.
On Tuesday the group had chosen to enjoy the pleasant, crisp fall afternoon by hiring Citibikes and following the leisurely bike path down West St, which runs alongside the Hudson River.
They were near Stuyvesant High School – at the tail end of the killer’s rampage – when he struck them, Mateo Estrémé, Consul General of Argentina to the United Nations, told The New York Post.
‘We are trying to figure out how to go on – especially the families,’ he said. ‘[They] are completely lost about, well, being very far from their relatives. They don’t know what to do.’
And he said that even those that survived have been horribly scarred by the attack. ‘They are devastated,’ he said. ‘They are still in shock because they cannot believe that this happened.’
In its statement, the Argentinian government said that Marro, ‘is hospitalized at the Presbyterian Hospital of Manhattan recovering from injuries suffered [and is] out of danger’.
Marro’s wife, Mariana Dagatti, who is also from Argentina, is now in New York with her husband, according to their friend, Newton City Councilor James Cote.
The pair had hosted a fundraiser for Cote, a Republican, last week, he said. He added that Marro is a scientist at the Novartis Institutes in Cambridge, while his wife is an architect, and that they have lived in Newton for about seven years.
Tom Mountain, chairman of the Newton Republican City Committee, said the couple are ‘kind, caring and wonderful people,’ and said that the ‘horror show’ attack had left the committee ‘absolutely stunned.’
Before his death, Pagnucco had shared a photograph of himself in New York with a Facebook group dedicated to the multiplayer war video game War Machines, in which he played as a tank commander with the nickname ‘Janus’.