A rogue pickup truck has destroyed a 1,000-year-old statue on Easter Island.
The accident took place in the Pu A Pau sector of the island earlier this month, the cultural heritage organization, Ma’u Henua, said on Facebook.
The truck had been parked, The New York Times reported Friday, but an apparent brake failure caused the vehicle to roll down a hill, crashing into an ahu, a stone pedestal that supports moai — the iconic giant head-shaped figures that have made the island famous.
Jo Anne Van Tilburg of the Easter Island Statue Project told the outlet that the outcome of the accident “could not be worse.”
The ahu are a fundamental part of the island’s culture.
“This is a mortuary. That is what ahu are,” Tilburg said. “This man basically ran right smack into a grave. It could not be worse.”
The man, a Chilean resident, has reportedly been arrested, CNN reported.
The president of the Rapa Nui, Easter Island’s indigenous community, Camilo Rapu, told the outlet that the damage to the statue “is an offense to a culture that has lived many years struggling to recover its heritage and archaeology.”
“The damage is incalculable,” Rapu said, adding that “the Moai are sacred structures of religious value for the Rapa Nui people.”
The crash has raised concerns about how to protect the island’s statues.
“The island is an open-air museum where there are more than 25,000 archaeological remains,” Rapu said on Friday, according to the NYT. “We can’t close off the whole island.”
He added: “We are a living culture that maintains its traditions, and the place where this happened is not a tourist site, it is a place of traditional use for the Rapa Nui people.”
Easter Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known as a “cultural phenomenon.”
The island’s Polynesian society was settled in c. A.D. 300.