A Chilean man has been arrested after his car rolled into one of the sacred ‘head’ figures on Easter Island with images showing the damaged truck surrounded by the rubble which is all that remains of the statue.
The incident took place on Sunday in the bay of Puna Pau on Easter Island, in the southeastern Pacific Ocean in the Chilean region of Valparaiso and prosecutor of Rapa Nui, Lorena Villagran, told reporters the man had been charged with damaging a national monument.
The prosecutor said the suspect’s car did not have a handbrake and instead, he was using stones in front of the wheels to stop it rolling downhill.
However, when he removed the stones he could not stop the car from rolling down the slope before it crashed into Moai ‘head’ figure which is sacred in the local Rapa Nui culture.
Villagran said the suspect, who is a resident of the island, had not been drunk at the time of the accident.
He has been arrested and cannot leave the island for 90 days. He has also been banned from entering the national park and must sign in with the court every month.
She added: “It is not a simple crime, it has historic and social consequences”,
Camilo Rapu, the President of the Mau Henua community, the organisation in charge of the care and preservation of the Moai and archaeological sites of the island, told local media that “the damage is incalculable”.
He added: “As is known, Moais are sacred structures of religious value for Rapa Nui people and an act like this is not only abominable, but also it is an offence against a living culture that in the last few years has been fighting to recover all of its historical and archaeological heritage.”
He said the community will be detailing the government, Congress and other cultural organisations about the incident.
On 27th January, the municipality of Rapa Nui reported on Twitter that a tourist had been photographed hugging a Moai figure, which is banned according to the national park’s rules.
The meaning behind the Moais is unknown but the most common theory is that they were carved by Polynesian citizens on the island as representations of their dead ancestors so that they could project their “mana” (supernatural power) over their descendants.
Local media published footage of the vehicle after it came to a stop after hitting the sacred Easter Island figure which collapsed, leaving rubble scattered around the damaged pickup truck.
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