Search widens for three inmates who fled Quebec prison in helicopter
The search has widened for three inmates who escaped with the help of a helicopter from a detention centre in Quebec City.
It was the second helicopter-aided inmate escape in Canada's Quebec province in two years.
The three men escaped from the Orsainville Detention Centre in suburban Quebec City on Saturday with the help of a green helicopter.
The chopper landed in the courtyard of the detention centre, which has barbed-wire fencing and a watch post, and then quickly took off with the three inmates, heading west towards Trois-Rivieres or Montreal, police said.
Authorities were put on alert across Quebec, in the rest of Canada, and in the United States, according to provincial police.
"We have co-operation with all the police forces across the country and abroad also," said Sergeant Gregory Gomez. "We have many, many officers who are scattering all the areas possible. Investigators are, of course, checking every lead."
Police were reluctant to provide many details about their investigation for fear the escapees could be monitoring media reports.
The three - Yves Denis, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49 - were arrested on drug trafficking and gangsterism charges in 2010, according to police. Denis and Lefebvre were subsequently charged with murder, police said.
Police said the men were swept up in a major 2010 police operation dubbed Operation Ecrevisse (Crayfish), aimed at bringing down a drug trafficking ring in northwestern Quebec. During the raid, police made 51 arrests and seized C$905,000 (HK$6.4 million) and 2kg of cocaine, along with other drugs, police said. They also seized a plane and a helicopter.
The status of the men's cases in the court system was not immediately clear.
Police released photos of the three men on social media and appealed to the public for help, but warned anyone who spotted them not to approach and to immediately contact police.
Audrey-Anne Bilodeau, another police spokeswoman, said on Saturday that police were working with surrounding airports and Quebec's Valcartier military base to help track down the helicopter.
In March last year, a helicopter pilot was forced at gunpoint to pluck two inmates from Montreal's St-Jerome prison on a quiet Sunday afternoon. They climbed up a rope ladder into the hovering helicopter and fled. The two escapees and the two suspects who hijacked the helicopter were all caught within a few hours of the escape.