Brazilian pensioner burned 700 hectares of protected forest and killed hundreds of animals because of an insurance scam

66-year-old Brazilian Heli Barroso Martins accidentally burned 673 hectares of protected forest, which is under state protection. It happened after a man tried to burn his car as a result of an unsuccessful insurance scam. As a result, an area the size of 1,257 football fields burned out and hundreds of animals died.

Brazilian pensioner burned 700 hectares of protected forest and killed hundreds of animals because of an insurance scam

Brazilian pensioner burned 700 hectares of protected forest and killed hundreds of animals because of an insurance scam

An elderly Brazilian, Heli Barroso Martins, decided to set fire to his car, intending in this way to receive 25 thousand reais (approximately 4,700 US dollars) of insurance payments. He poured gasoline and set fire to the car in the protected reserve of Araras, which is located in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro — and it was his fatal mistake.

Brazilian pensioner burned 700 hectares of protected forest and killed hundreds of animals because of an insurance scam

The car exploded, and a strong wind blew the flames for many kilometers, destroying valuable natural resources on its way. As a result of the fire, which lasted three days, 673 hectares of forest burned down, and many wild animals died.

66-year-old Brazilian Heli Barroso Martins

When the police questioned Martins, he put forward his version — he said that when he was driving home on July 27, he was attacked by two armed men on a motorcycle. They allegedly set fire to his car after failing to start it due to ignition problems. However, the police were suspicious of this version.

Brazilian pensioner burned 700 hectares of protected forest and killed hundreds of animals because of an insurance scam

But the police were suspicious of his version of events after firefighters reported that the source of the fire was a car that was specially doused with gasoline.

Brazilian pensioner burned 700 hectares of protected forest and killed hundreds of animals because of an insurance scam

Later, suspicions were dispelled — as part of the investigation, the police visited about 20 gas stations in the region, and found that the day before the incident, the pensioner bought a canister of gasoline at a local gas station. As a result, the suspect was charged with attempted fraud and intentional arson of a protected area.

Brazilian pensioner burned 700 hectares of protected forest and killed hundreds of animals because of an insurance scam

Footage of a pensioner buying a canister of gasoline at a local gas station

A team of 72 firefighters and environmental protection agents fought the fire, which raged for three days, using 17 vehicles, including helicopters to dump water.

Brazilian pensioner burned 700 hectares of protected forest and killed hundreds of animals because of an insurance scam

The damage that the fire caused to the reserve was called "catastrophic". Environmentalists reported that it will take decades to restore nature, and hundreds of animals died as a result of the disaster. If the pensioner is eventually found guilty, he faces a sentence of 15 years in prison.

Brazilian pensioner burned 700 hectares of protected forest and killed hundreds of animals because of an insurance scam

Keywords: Car | Brazil | Nature reserve | Forest fires | Pensioner

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