Six die in chamanic ritual in Ecuador

QUITO (AFP) - A chamanic ritual ended in tragedy when six people died at hot springs in Ecuador, apparently after inhaling toxic gases, authorities said Thursday.

The bodies, including four members of a single family, were found on Wednesday at the hot springs in the northern Andean province of Imbabura, the officials said.

"It's an accidental death resulting from the inhalation of toxic gases emanating from the thermal waters," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Local firefighter Carlos Lopez told AFP that toxicological tests had not yet been performed, "but it is confirmed that it is from inhalation of gases."

Members of the community indicated that the victims were taking part in a ritual led by two chamans, both of whom also died, according to Lopez.

A seven-year-old boy found alive said his mother had not allowed him to join the others bathing at night in the hot springs, so he stayed in their car and went to sleep, investigators said.

At the site, authorities found homemade cane liquor, candles, eggs, medicinal plants, entrails and dead birds, as well as the business card of a chaman offering to solve problems with money, love, work, business and travel.