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Chile prison guards face charges in deadly fire

SANTIAGO, Mar 29 – A Chilean court ordered three prison guards held on negligent homicide charges for the deaths of 66 of the 81 inmates who died in cellblock fire in December, officials said.

The three guards from the San Miguel prison were charged with "the crime of negligent homicide," prosecutor Alejandro Pena said.

In addition, five senior officers were charged with manslaughter and ordered to remain in the country, local media reported. Among them is the former prison director Carlos Bustos Hoffman.

The December fire killed 81 inmates after the blaze erupted during a brawl and swept through the crowded prison, where 1,900 inmates were packed into a facility built for 900.

Pena said the investigation found that the three guards failed to react in time to save the inmates of the north wing.

Most of those killed were believed to have died from smoke inhalation: officials said the inmates died trapped in their cells, with no way to escape the toxic fumes emitted by the blaze.

One of the inmates told the court that he heard a voice yell "die!" from the guards, in response to the inmates calling for help.

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