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Accident at Machu Picchu Commercial Shoot Gets Man Six Years

A camera crane operator shooting a commercial at the Machu Picchu Inca ruins whose equipment tipped and chipped a stone sundial there has been sentenced to six years in prison, officials said Friday.

The local court in Urubamba, 338 miles southeast of the capital, Lima, said it had found Walter Leonidas Espinoza guilty on Nov. 3 of destruction and alteration of cultural goods.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of eight years behind bars. Antonio Terrazas, a lawyer acting as spokesman for Peru's Institute of Culture, said offenders are seldom charged and when they are prosecuted and found guilty, it normally results only in a fine or a few months in jail.

Espinoza has appealed his sentence, authorities said.

The production company Espinoza worked for knocked a corner edge off the Intihuatana, or "hitching post for the sun," in 2000 while shooting the commercial for the Backus beer company.

The Intihuatana was used by Inca astronomers to predict solstices and was of great importance in Inca mythology and agriculture. It is considered to be the most important shrine in Machu Picchu, Peru's biggest tourist attraction, high in the jungle-covered Andes, about 310 miles southeast of the capital, Lima.

Officials with Backus, which faces a civil lawsuit along with the advertising firm that hired the production company, declined comment Friday.