US & Canada

Canada prisoners in daring helicopter escape

Handout image of Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau
Image caption Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau, 36

Two inmates have made a daring escape from a prison in Canada by climbing up a rope into a hovering helicopter.

Officials at the St-Jerome prison, near Montreal, said the inmates fled at about 14:20 (18:20 GMT) on Sunday, triggering a massive manhunt.

Police later said they arrested one of the prisoners and two other men. The second escapee was detained several hours later.

The helicopter was also found, and the pilot is now being questioned.

The two inmates were identified as Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau, 36, and Danny Provencal, 33.

'Ready to die'

Both were reportedly injured during the escape from the prison, about 60km (40 miles) north-west of Montreal.

Before Hudon-Barbeau was re-arrested, he reportedly called local media outlets saying he was "ready to die".

"I don't want to hurt anyone. I just don't want to stay in prison, and I'm ready to die," a French-language Montreal radio station quoted him as saying.

Hudon-Barbeau was arrested in November on two firearms-related charges as part of an investigation into a double murder in Quebec, the Canadian Press agency cites a provincial police report as saying.

Public broadcaster Radio Canada said he had ties to the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang, which police have said is involved in alleged criminal and drug activities and organised crime.

Police said much of the action took place in the town of Chertsey.

Several hours later the second inmate surrendered peacefully after being tracked down by police.

Christa McGregor from the Correctional Service of Canada said Provencal was serving a sentence of more than seven years for various offences, CNN reports.

The helicopter - which was found some 85km away from the prison - was reportedly hijacked from a tour company.

Yves Galarneau, who oversees the St-Jerome jail, said he had never seen anything like the dramatic escape in more than three decades on the job.

"As far as I know, it's a first in Quebec,'' he told reporters at the scene. "It's exceptional."

The 480-prisoner St-Jerome facility was the scene of a small riot last month. Police had to use pepper spray to quell inmates.

CTV, a private television station, reports that such facilities in Quebec province are often overwhelmed at weekends when prisoners arrive to serve short sentences, which can lead to some overcrowding.

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