By Maximilian Heath and Luc Cohen
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentines on Wednesday mourned the loss of five friends from the northern city of Rosario who were mowed down the day before while enjoying a bike ride in New York during a trip to celebrate 30 years since their high school graduation.
President Mauricio Macri praised the five men, who were architects and businessmen, as model citizens, and he called for the world to stand firm against terrorism.
A total of eight people were killed and 11 injured when a man driving a rented pickup truck plowed into pedestrians and cyclists on a popular bike path along the Hudson River.
Rosario, a major agricultural hub and the hometown of Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara and soccer great Lionel Messi, declared three days of mourning, the city’s mayor, Monica Fein, wrote on Twitter.
Argentina’s foreign ministry identified the five deceased friends as Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi. Local media said they were 48 to 49 years old
“They were five young entrepreneurs, model citizens in Rosario society,” Macri said of the victims, speaking at an event in Buenos Aires, the capital. “We all must stand together in the fight against terrorism.”
A sixth Argentine, Martin Ludovico Marro, was injured and was at a hospital in Manhattan, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Four other members of the group were unharmed, according to an Argentina consular official in New York.
Argentine news media reported the trip had been organised by Erlij, who ran a Rosario-based company, Ivanar, which distributes steel products.
A picture of the friends at the airport before they flew to New York published by newspaper Clarin showed eight men grinning with arms linked, wearing matching white T-shirts that said “Libre,” or “Free” in Spanish.
All were alumni of Rosario’s Politechnical school, a high school focussed on engineering and technical skills.
The incident marked the deadliest single attack on New York City since suicide hijackers crashed jetliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, killing more than 2,600 people.
Argentina, more than 5,000 miles (8,040 km) away from New York, has been spared the attacks that have plagued Europe and North America in recent years, though Buenos Aires suffered deadly attacks on the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish Community centre decades ago.
“These (attacks) are political problems and they must be resolved because innocent people keep dying,” said Magale Sigg, a 39-year-old graphic designer in Buenos Aires.
(Additional reporting by Juliana Castilla, Cassandra Garrison, Juan Bustamonte, and Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Franklin Paul, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)