A Chilean man was arrested after crashing his pick-up truck into one of the iconic ‘head’ figures on Easter Island.
The driver, who is believed to live on the Polynesian island, sparked anger by causing ‘incalculable’ damage to one of the sacred headstones. He was arrested after the incident on Sunday and has been charged with damaging a national monument.
Lorena Vilagran, prosecutor of the Rapa Nui municipality in Valparaiso, said the man’s vehicle had no handbrake, so he had placed stones in front of the wheels to try and keep it from rolling downhill.
When the suspect removed them, the car lurched forward and he was unable to stop it hurtling towards the Moai monument, she added.
Ms Vilagran said: ‘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.’
In January the town Tweeted that a tourist had been snapped hugging one of the stone figures, which is banned under national park rules.
The meaning behind the headstones 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 they could project their ‘mana’ over their descendants.