Mapuche tribe eco-terrorists are the chief suspects in the arson attack on a 1970 Erickson S-64F Air Crane “Camille,” N159AC, on station at the helipad in Santa Juana, Chile Monday night. Santa Juana is located approximately 33 miles southeast of the city of Concepcion. The arson gutted the cockpit and the rear-facing crane operator station.
In a statement released Tuesday, Erickson said, “A group of unidentified individuals entered an Erickson operating base in Chile Last night. After gaining entry to the secure area, they caused damage to the Erickson-owned S-64 Air Crane helicopter there. No Erickson employees were hurt. Erickson personnel are cooperating with local police. We have no further information to share at this time.” Erickson did not respond to AIN’s request for comment.
According to Chilean press reports, “Camille” is one of two Erickson Air Cranes on duty in Chile for the current firefighting season. The helicopters had flown approximately 80 missions from December through February. The aircraft are operated by local partner Ecocopter on behalf of multinational forestry company Arauco, which holds 2.7 million acres of Chilean forests in an area of the country claimed by the Mapuche.
The tribe’s main tool for forcibly reclaiming its lands since the 1990s has been arson attacks on small private landholders, forestry companies and their lands, and government security forces. It is credited with 920 firebomb attacks between 2011 and 2018 that have killed at least 20.