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Family, Friends Mourn The Victims Lost In Lower Manhattan Terror Attack

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Two men from the Tri-State Area were among those killed in Tuesday's deadly terror attack in Lower Manhattan.

Eight people were killed and 12 others injured when officials said 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov deliberately slammed a rented pick-up truck into a school bus and cyclists on a West Side Highway bike path Tuesday afternoon.

Six people died at the scene. Two other victims died at New York-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital.

LOWER MANHATTAN TERRORPhotos | Videos | Road Closures

Darren Drake, 32, of New Milford, New Jersey, was among those killed.

His father spoke with CBS2's Jessica Moore about his loss, saying he was "absolutely hurt."

"It was one of the most wonderful father-son relationships a person could have," he said. 

James "Jimmy" Drake said his son was a project manager for Moody's Investors Service at the World Trade Center and a graduate of Rutgers University, who was working on getting his second master's degree and once served on the school board in his hometown. He also said Darren had recently lost 90 pounds and liked to clear his head by riding his bike along the West Street path.

"He had everything going for him, everything in the world you can imagine," he said.

The Drakes heard about the attack Tuesday, but had no idea their son was in terror's path.

"We got home and we said, 'What are the odds of Darren being out in that 30 second period of time that the guy came driving by?' But then as the day went on, 5-o-clock came along, no Darren. We called his cellphone – dead. We called his office phone – answering machine," Jimmy said.

In what they described as a hunch, he and his wife drove to Bellevue Hospital and confronted their worst nightmare.

"At the moment, I just lost it," Jimmy said. "You see the child you loved for 33 years."

Darren Drake
Darren Drake (Facebook)

Two weeks before his 33rd birthday, the son who still lived at home and cared for his parents every day was killed in a senseless act of premeditated violence.

Moody's issued a statement Wednesday, saying Darren was a "valued member" whose loss "will be deeply felt by all those who worked with him."

Rutgers said the school was "deeply saddened by the tragic and senseless loss," calling Darren an "exceptional graduate" and "leader in his community" with "a bright future ahead of him."

The New Milford Board of Education described Darren as a "good man with a soft touch and huge heart." 

Jamie Westervelt's children grew up with Darren in New Milford.

"He was just – he had such a wonderful spirit," she told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell, sobbing. "He always had a smile on his face. He was a great person."

Mona Paswagin lives next door to the Drakes.

"He's a very kind, very loving, very kind neighbor," she said.

Viewing hours are scheduled for Saturday, followed by a funeral Monday.

Meanwhile, Darren's heartbroken father said he's not angry with Saipov.

"I'm not even angry. I'm not angry at all. I'm hurt. I'm absolutely hurt," Jimmy said. "Believe me, I've been a deer hunter for 40 years. I would never think of shooting this guy… the amount of hurt I feel, I can't explain."

That pain extended to another local family Wednesday, as police confirmed 23-year-old Nicholas Cleves, of Greenwich Village, was also killed in the attack.

Nicholas Cleve (Facebook)

Cleves lived in an apartment with his mother, 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reported. He was her only child.

"He was absolutely lovely," said Diane Cohen, the baker in the grocery store he visited almost daily. "This was the kind of -- I'm going to cry again -- this was the kind of kid every mother wants their son to be. He was smart, he was kind, he describes himself as a nerdy kid."

Another woman who lived in the same building as Cleves said she didn't know him personally, but that knowing he was killed on the bike path is sad.

"Everyone in this building uses that park as their playground and their backyard, and it's devastating to all of us really," she said. 

"As you can well appreciate, the family is bereft at this time and grieving," family spokesman Jim Burnham told CBS2's Valerie Castro. "Nicholas Cleves was a fine young man starting out a successful career, strucken down way earlier than he should have been."

The eight victims reflect a city that's both a melting pot and a magnet for international visitors.

Five of the people who died were visiting the city from Argentina on a high school reunion trip.

"They saw New York as a special place to be,'' said Mayor Bill de Blasio, "and we now and forever will consider them New Yorkers.''

The Argentine foreign ministry identified the victims as Hernan Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damian Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij, and Hernan Ferruchi. 

Another person in their group, Martin Ludovico Marro, is being treated at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital.

The victims were among eight friends celebrating the anniversary of their 1987 graduation from the Polytechnic School of Rosario, Argentina, with a U.S. trip to New York and Boston, where Marro lives.

"They were so happy to be together to have the opportunity to share some excellent moments and then this terror attack brought an abrupt end to that celebration," Argentina's consul in New York, Mateo Estreme, said. "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 the families."

Terror Attack Victims from Argentina
Terror attack victims Hernan Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damian Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernan Ferruchi. (credit: CBS2)

People in Argentina turned to prayer outside the high school the victims graduated from over 30 years ago.

Estreme told La Capital in Rosario that the four survivors in the Argentine group are in a state of shock.

The consulate general is working with police and in touch with the victims' relatives.

"We really stand in complete solidarity with Belgium, Argentina and all other countries against these acts of terrorism," U. S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday. "Once again we have seen the evil face of terror in our own borders, but this is a face that knows no borders."

Thirty-one-year-old Ann-Laure Decadt, of Belgium, also died in Tuesday's attack. Officials said she was the mother of 3-year-old and 3-month-old sons.

Ann-Laure Decadt
Ann-Laure Decadt of Belgium has been identified as one of the people killed in the Lower Manhattan terror attack (credit: CBS2)

"We knew her as a very spontaneous person, loving her family and her children. So it's a pity," family friend Johan Verstervete said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered flags to fly at half-staff Thursday in honor of the victims.

"Today, tomorrow and forever, we will remember the lives of those taken from us too soon, and we keep in our thoughts their loved ones who are feeling unimaginable pain," Cuomo said. "We know that our freedom and our democracy are targets of this hate and it is critical that we work as one in the face of this attack. There is no alternative, this is not a time to point fingers or blame - it's a time to come together and work for a common goal, to protect New York."

Three different area hospitals were caring for the injured, some of whom were in critical condition and others who were undergoing surgery. One of those hurt is a student who is in critical condition, CBS2's Reena Roy reported.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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