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Mother, 2 Daughters Admit Role in Zoo Fire

German police say 3 women 'infinitely sorry' after releasing sky lanterns; 30 animals died
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2020 12:44 PM CST
Cops: Suspects 'Infinitely Sorry' for Dozens of Zoo Animal Deaths
Exterior view of the destroyed ape house of the Krefeld Zoo in Germany on Thursday.   (Marcel Kusch/dpa via AP)

(Newser) – More than 30 animals perished in a zoo fire early New Year's Day, and German police now say three suspects have emerged and taken responsibility. After reports circulated that police suspected sky lanterns may have caused the inferno that destroyed the Krefeld Zoo's ape house, cops say a 60-year-old woman and her two adults daughters came forward to say they'd released such lanterns on New Year's Eve and were "infinitely sorry" for what had happened, Deutsche Welle reports. The lanterns, small paper balloons with air heated by fire, are typically seen in Asian celebrations but are illegal in Germany. The dead animals include apes, monkeys, fruit bats, and birds, per CTV News.

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Police rep Gerd Hoppmann says the women—who appeared to be "completely normal people who seemed very sensible, very responsible"—told cops they ordered five of the lanterns off the internet and didn't know they were illegal in Germany. Hoppmann adds it was "courageous" of them to come forward. Just one lantern is believed to have caused the blaze, though the other four were also found, with handwritten messages for the new year inside. Police are also looking to see if anything else contributed to the blaze, such as dry leaves on the roof of the ape house, which didn't have fire detectors or sprinklers. The women, who are being investigated for negligent arson, face a prison sentence of up to five years if convicted. (Read more zoo stories.)

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