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Helicopter hijacked in prison escape

This news story was published on March 19, 2013.
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SAINT-JEROME, Quebec, March 18 (UPI) — The pilot whose helicopter was hijacked Sunday in a daring escape from a Quebec prison flew with a gun to his head, his boss said.

Four people, including two inmates, were arrested, Quebec provincial police said.

Yves Le Roux, president of the helicopter rental company, Passport-Helico, said the pilot thought he was taking two tourists on a flight around the Mont-Tremblant ski resort when one of the hijackers put a gun to his head and ordered him to fly to the Saint-Jerome detention center where two inmates in the courtyard were lifted out of the compound dangling on ropes beneath the helicopter, the Globe and Mail reported.

Le Roux said the pilot tried to radio an emergency signal but the hijackers became suspicious and ripped off the pilot’s headset.

Police confirmed they arrested three people, including one of the fugitives, and a second fugitive surrendered Sunday night without incident several hours after the breakout, CTV News reported.

No information was provided on the fourth arrest.

“It was very peaceful. Nobody was injured,” provincial police Sgt. Benoit Richard said.

The breakout occurred Sunday afternoon from a jail in Saint-Jerome that has been the subject of complaints about overcrowding and reduced weekend staffing, officials said.

A search began after a helicopter approached the facility and, while hovering, two inmates hooked themselves to cables attached to the chopper, which then flew away with the men suspended beneath it, CTV said.

Witness Francis Emond called the incident “a James Bond moment.”

Police found the helicopter and the pilot about 52 miles away. The pilot had been hospitalized and was awaiting police questioning.

CTV reported a man who said he was one of the inmates said on a Montreal radio station he was shot in the leg. Police said they couldn’t confirm whether shots were fired during the escape.

In a recording released by the radio station, the man said: “I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just don’t want to stay in prison, and I’m ready to die.”

Last month, about a dozen prisoners at the Saint-Jerome facility demonstrated to protest conditions, CTV said.

Yves Galarneau, the Saint-Jerome manager, said security measures don’t address a possible jailbreak involving a helicopter.

“As far as I know, it’s a first in Quebec,” Galarneau said. “It’s exceptional.”

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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