The Chilean territory of Easter Island is home to hundreds of stone-faced structures that are believed to have been built sometime between the 13th and 16th centuries. These statues, known as "Moai," are considered sacred among the indigenous Rapa Nui people and attract thousands of tourists every year. Sadly, however, there is now one less on the Polynesian island.
According to CNN, a Chilean resident was arrested this week after his truck caused "incalculable" damage to one of the statues. Officials said the accident was apparently caused by brake failure, as the vehicle reportedly rolled down a slope and crashed into the structure and the platform on which it was situated. The man was arrested March 1, the same day as the accident, and was hit with unspecified charges.
It's unclear if anyone was injured in the crash.
"The damage is incalculable," Camilo Rapu, the president of Easter Island's indigenous Rapa Nui community, told CNN. The moai are sacred structures of religious value for the Rapa Nui people … Furthermore [the damage of the moai] is an offense to a culture that has lived many years struggling to recover its heritage and archeology."
In the wake of the accident, Easter Island mayor Pedro Pablo Petero Edmunds Paoa is expected to propose stronger regulations that would prevent this kind of damage from happening again. According to CNN, he reportedly tried to pass an anti-driving measure eight years ago to protect the sacred sites better.
"Everyone refused to regulate the circulation of any vehicle in a sacred place through an ordinance," he told Chile's El Mercurio newspaper about the failed proposal.