Manhattan terror attack victims include New Yorker, Argentines, Belgian, officials say

The lower Manhattan terror attack claimed the life of Jimmy Drake's son, Darren Drake, on Oct. 31, 2017. Above, Jimmy Drake holds a photo of his son.
The lower Manhattan terror attack claimed the life of Jimmy Drake’s son, Darren Drake, on Oct. 31, 2017. Above, Jimmy Drake holds a photo of his son. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Alex Goodlett

A 23-year-old New Yorker and a 32-year-old New Jersey resident are among the eight people who were killed in the lower Manhattan terror attack on Tuesday, police announced Wednesday afternoon.

Nicholas Cleves, of Manhattan, was the youngest of the victims. Darren Drake, of New Milford, New Jersey was also identified Wednesday. The other victims include Anne Laure Decadt, 31, of Belgium and five Argentines, police said.

Jim Burnham, who identified himself as a friend, said that Cleves’ family was grieving.

“Nicholas Cleves was a fine young man starting out a successful career, struck down way earlier than he should have been,” Burnham added before asking for privacy on the family’s behalf.

Cleves lived on Greenwich Street in the Village. Diane Cohen, the in-house baker of the Brooklyn Fare market downstairs from his apartment, said the store was sending up platters of food, including sandwiches, coffee and cakes.

She and other employees said Cleves lived with his mother and was a regular at the store.

“She’s lovely and they were very close,” Cohen said about his mother. “It’s everyone’s loss.

“This is the kind of person every mother, every parent wants their child to be,” she said. “He was smart, funny, kind and just a decent human being.”

Cleves attended Elisabeth Irwin High School and went to Skidmore College, according to Cohen. She said he worked from home as a software engineer and was an avid bicyclist.

“He was just a loving, good person who found joy in everything,” she added.

Meanwhile in New Jersey, Drake’s father, Jimmy Drake, reflected on the loss of his son, whom he called his best friend. “He’s probably the gentlest soul you’d ever meet in your life.”

Drake said his son worked as a program manager at Moody’s Investors Service in 7 World Trade Center, and was taking a Citi Bike ride when he was struck and killed by a truck whose driver deliberately barreled down the West Side Highway bike path at a high rate of speed Tuesday afternoon.

“When I went to the morgue and I saw his face, I didn’t see a man…I saw a kid being born. And all of the black and blues and the scabs and everything,” Drake said outside the home he and his wife shared with their son. “Seeing that picture, I couldn’t deal with it.”

Drake grew up in New Milford and moved back in with his parents after getting his undergraduate degree in political science at Rutgers University and an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck. He also was working toward earning another master’s degree from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. The family ate dinner together every night, and discussed politics and debated which football team was better, the Jets or the Giants. 

“I’m hoping I can wake up and realize it was all a bad dream,” the bereaved father said.

Drake described his son as a “company man” who worked at all hours to deal with foreign markets, as well as, “a very intelligent, sincere, down-to-earth, fun-loving, open-to-challenges intellectual.”

The 73-year-old father said he wants his son’s killer to spend his life in solitary confinement without any books to read and called on other loved ones of victims not to hate.

“You couldn’t be much more hurt,” he said. “But give yourself some time because you can’t hate…we’ll always have him.”

The Argentines — identified as Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, Hernán Ferruchi and Ariel Erlij — were part of a group of 10 people who were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation when the attack began, officials said. All were 47 years old except for Erlij, who was 48.

“They were so happy to be together to have the opportunity to share some excellent moments,” Mateo Estreme, consulate general of Argentina, said on Wednesday. “And then this terror attack brought an abrupt end to that celebration.”

Estreme said he was working to ensure the Argentinian victims were returned home as soon as possible in order for family members “to have an opportunity to say goodbye to them.”

“My government and I believe the whole world condemns these kinds of acts and our sympathies and our hearts are with all the victims and their families,” Estreme said. “We have been in contact with families and with the survivors.”

In Buenos Aires, Argentine President Mauricio Macri praised the five architects and businessmen as model citizens.

“We must all stand together in the fight against terrorism,” he said. The president has a previously scheduled trip to New York next week and on Wednesday spoke with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who expressed his condolences, Macri’s office said.

Flags flew at half-staff in Rosario, where the victims were visiting from, and the city declared three days of mourning. 

“They went to celebrate life, and found death,” Jorge Cetta, a spokesman for the victims’ polytechnic high school, said in an interview. Dozens of people held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night at the 111-year-old high school. The crowd was made up of parents and children, former and current students and others.

Erlij’s family and employees remembered the victims in a letter to the Argentine newspaper Clarin. “This is sad news for the world, but even more so for those of us who had the opportunity of getting to know them,” the letter read.

At least 12 people were injured when terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov, 29, plowed a rented Home Depot pickup truck into the popular bike lane near Houston Street at about 3 p.m. Tuesday. He drove south for more than 10 blocks, hitting cyclists and pedestrians, before crashing into a small school bus, police said.

One of the victims who survived was identified as Argentine citizen Martín Ludovico Marro. Two children and two adults on the school bus were also among the injured.

Nine of the 12 people injured remained at hospitals Wednesday morning, four of whom were in critical but stable condition, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said at a news conference. 

Saipov, an Uzbekistan native who lives in Paterson, New Jersey, was shot by an NYPD officer and taken to Bellevue Hospital Center. He is was arraigned on federal terrorism charges Wednesday evening.

He had been planning the attack for at least two months and left behind handwritten notes in Arabic that said, in part, “No God but God and Muhammad is his Prophet,” and “Islamic Supplication. It will endure,” which is a common phrase used to refer to ISIS, according to the criminal complaint.

With Alison Fox, Lisa L. Colangelo, Rachelle Blinder and Reuters