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Honduras pardons prisoner who free inmates during deadly blaze

A convicted murderer called "shorty" who helped save hundreds of inmates during a prison fire that killed 360 people last week has been pardoned.

Honduras fire jail 2012 02 15Enlarge
A surviving inmate is evacuated from the jail at Comayagua where at least 350 prisoners were killed and scores injured after a fire tore through the Central Honduras facility. (ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

A convicted murderer called "shorty" who helped save hundreds of inmates during a prison fire that killed 360 people last week has been pardoned.

(More from GlobalPost: PICTURES: Honduras prison fire leaves more than 350 dead)

Honduran President Porfirio Lobo announced he would pardon Marco Antonio Bonilla for releasing trapped prisoners from Comayagua jail on Feb. 14 as guards panicked and left screaming men to die, The Guardian reported.

Bonilla — who had been outside his cell when the fire started — used a set of keys to unlock several barracks, each housing about 100 men, and used a bench to smash open other locks.

"He put himself at incredible risk trying to save lives during the tragedy," Lobo reportedly said during a televised meeting with ministers.

Bonilla, 50, who worked as a nurse at the jail, had just a few months left to serve of a murder sentence.

Meanwhile, US investigators said Tuesday that the deadliest prison fire in a century was accidental, the Associated Press wrote, and may have been caused by a lit match, cigarette or some other open flame that set a mattress alight.

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — asked by the Honduran government to help — were "able to rule out other possible causes of the fire, such as a lightning strike, electrical causes, or the use of a flammable or combustible liquid," US Embassy statement said.

However, according to Reuters, family members of prisoners remain unconvinced that the fire was an accident, pointing to suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire.

A video taken by a resident living close to the prison reportedly featured gunshots ringing out while the fire blazed.

Police said they were firing warning shots in the air to stop inmates escaping. However, one prisoner told Reuters he saw police officers firing at prisoners.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/120223/honduras-prison-fire-pardon-shorty-convicted-murderer