Drug lord flees through rubble, bringing nail salon and hotel to their knees before ski patrol sacks him
Maverick “populist drug lord” Antonio “El Mayo” García was found by Chilean authorities clutching his hands, suggesting he may have been maimed, in the wake of the disastrous bailing out that ended in a roof collapse and a tree plunge.
The owner of the La Roca Hotel and Spa in Iquique in the south of the country – a place of business and a striking glimpse of a tax haven – was found in a crater left by the force of the giant avalanche that missed it by a few metres.
Hours earlier he had fled to the roof of the Mallayzuela nail salon just metres away, entering a building half-submerged, to take cover from rescue teams sent in by helicopter.
“He escaped without a scratch,” prosecutor Alejandro Zambonero from the Pacaraima law firm that represents Iquique, reported. “All he did was muddle through the rubble.”
The theory was supported by a statement of such an order sent out by air force command just after dawn: “Facing the potential danger from those who are bolting on top of the roof … it is necessary to suspend the retrieval of human remains from the wreckage on the site where the last pieces of debris have been found.”
And as it turned out there were no bodies.
The surreal scene created a scrum for pictures of the rescuers, many of whom ran towards García as if their life depended on it.
As the search continued, the prosecutor said the location of Mr García’s stash was unknown.
“So we presume he is trying to hold the chains of power between his fingers – there is a lot of money in these hotels,” Zambonero said.
García had been unwell for a while, the prosecutor said, but nothing like the shape-shifting assassin that those at the heart of Chilean politics have dubbed him.
His last moments were captured on video by the owner of a police helicopter called to rescue the men and women trapped in the building after the avalanche buried them.
His last words were: “I’m very, very hungry and I don’t feel well, I don’t know where to look and I’m tired.” He did not call out a “call me Mayo”.
Minutes later, his 19-day-old daughter Isabella jumped from a window on to the roof, the owner was caught between the bailing out snow and became one of the 40 people who fell to their deaths.
Once rescuers knew where he was, García was frantically shouting: “Wash my wounds!” He briefly stood up before losing his balance and falling to the ground.
Police took him to hospital in an ambulance with pictures of a man inside being checked by a forensic doctor.
“He is fine,” said a prosecutor, Dora Hernandez, who had taken part in the rescue. “But you know, he jumped through the window of the nail salon …. This was a horrible scene.”
With Julio Ramón Sanchez Laplace reporting