Dad of Israeli suspect in Chile fire: He's innocent

Father of Rotem Zinger, Israeli suspected of starting wildfire in Chile, tells Army Radio his son "doesn't understand where accusations came from."

January 1, 2012 09:00
2 minute read.
Fires in Chile, Torres del Paine national park

Fires rage in Chilean Torres del Paine national park 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The father of an Israeli tourist suspected of starting a fire in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park told Army Radio Sunday that his son was not involved in the incident.

Rotem Zinger, a 23-year-old from Ness Ziona, was arrested and freed on bond pending trial, Juan Melendez, head prosecutor in the region said Saturday. The blaze has consumed more than 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres).

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Wildfires rage in Chilean national park

"He doesn't understand where the accusations came from," Yahzikiel Zinger said of his son during the interview. "He was very far from the fire when it started and he had two days to run away if he really was guilty, and he didn't feel that way."

"Rotem is confused, shocked and is hoping for the best," the father added. "The police there [in Chile] evacuated a number of Israelis that were within an hours radius of the fire."

Rotem's father went on to say that half a day later he spoke with his son, who said that there had been a big fire that was getting closer to him and his friends. "They evacuated them, questioned them about what they saw and then released them," the father added.

AFP, however, quoted head prosecutor in the region as saying that Zinger had admitted that he failed to properly extinguish a roll of toilet paper that he had set on fire in the park.

"The problem was that paper was set on fire in a park, and it was not put out properly ... The penalty at the moment, for the infraction, is a violation of forest law. It is a minor penalty," Melendez added.

Zinger, who was held briefly before being freed on bond, cannot leave the country and faces 41-60 days in jail and fines of $80-300, AFP quoted officials as saying.

Earlier, Chilean Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said the fire had probably been caused by “negligent” tourists, and that the government was considering legal action against those found responsible.

A window of milder weather will allow the Chilean government to increase efforts to stop the fire raging through the main tourist attraction.

About 550 government and military personnel from Chile and Argentina and several aircraft have been deployed, Hinzpeter said.

The 180,000-hectare park in Chile’s Patagonia region is famous for its vertical granite peaks and is home to Andean condors, pumas and endangered Huemul deer.

Gil Hoffman and Bloomberg contributed to this report

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