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Argentinian Jewish businessman laid to rest after New York attack

Friends pay tribute to 'sheer gold' Manhattan attack victim as funeral takes place

    Ariel Erlij, who was killed in the Manhattan truck attack on 31 October
    Ariel Erlij, who was killed in the Manhattan truck attack on 31 October Getty Images

    Ariel Erlij, the 48-year-old married father of three killed in last week’s truck attack in New York, was buried on Monday amid strict security.

    The funeral took place at midday at the private El Prado cemetery in Pérez, near Rosario, central Argentina, where his devastated family and friends preferred to call the ceremony an act of “homage”.

    Mr Erlij, a prominent Argentinian Jewish businessman and civil engineer, and four former school friends were among the eight people killed on October 31 when a rental truck ploughed into pedestrians and cyclists on a cycle path in Manhattan’s West Side.

    The authorities said they were treating it as an act of terrorism. The driver, reported to be Uzbek national Sayfullo Saipov, was shot and wounded by police after leaping out of the vehicle with a pellet gun and a paintball gun.

    Investigators inspect the truck following last week's incident in New York
    Investigators inspect the truck following last week's incident in New York Getty Images

    The suspect was taken to hospital and remains in police custody.

    Mr Erlij was celebrating a 30-year reunion in New York with his former schoolmates from the General San Martín Polytechnic Institute in Rosario. 

    Minutes before the New York attack, he had called his wife, Pabla Pereyra, in Rosario to tell her he was riding a bike and was feeling very happy.

    A friend of the couple, Flavia Gauna, recalled that Mr Erlij often said that “if it weren’t for the United States, the world would no longer exist because of these crazy [terrorists]. And look what happened.”

    Misaskim, an American Orthodox Jewish not-for-profit organisation which provides services for the care of the dead, is reported to have worked with the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office to ensure that Mr Erlij’s body was handled according to Jewish custom.

    However, the family decided on a non-religious funeral service.

    Ariel Erlij (third from left) travelled to New York for a 30-year reunion with former schoolfriends
    Ariel Erlij (third from left) travelled to New York for a 30-year reunion with former schoolfriends Getty Images

    Ezequiel Cazorla, general manager of the steel production company which Mr Erlij owned, Ivanar in Rosario, said that the businessman’s widow and children – aged 19, 17 and 14 – had preferred a private burial.

    “There is too much pain. They cannot speak,” he said.

    The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, telephoned the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, shortly after the attack to express his condemnation, condolences and support.

    Argentina’s President, Mauricio Macri, travelled to New York to express his solidarity with the five murdered Argentinians.

    “We were all very shocked when we heard we had lost five residents of Rosario who were showing off one of Argentina’s finest qualities, friendship,” Mr Macri declared.

    He added that terrorism and violence must be fought with the greatest vigour: “We want to live in a world governed by peace.”

    Mr Erlij, the most financially successful of his old schoolmates, was the driving force behind the trip to New York, helping to foot the bill for at least two of those who could not afford it.

    Ariel Erlij's mother-in-law Nelida Yolanda Fala holds a frame with family pictures, one of the showing her daughter Pabla Pereyra's wedding picture with Ariel Erlij
    Ariel Erlij's mother-in-law Nelida Yolanda Fala holds a frame with family pictures, one of the showing her daughter Pabla Pereyra's wedding picture with Ariel Erlij AP

    He was active in politics in his home city and the surrounding province of Santa Fé and promoted a number of investment projects in the region.

    He was also a passionate fan of his local soccer team, Rosario Central, and they paid tribute to him on Saturday before their match with Atlético Tucumán.

    A neighbour, Averio Ososky, described Mr Erlij as “an entrepreneur, a working type. Sheer gold.”

    His friends at his volleyball club affectionately nicknamed him “The Mummy” because he had difficulty bending his knees on the court.

    Mr Cazorla said Mr Erlij was “a great creative force. We will continue our work with the same strength and we will always remember him with enormous love.”