Prison Escape

Audacious daytime prison escape by helicopter.

The escapees have since been recaptured.

EDITED TO ADD (4/12): Other helecopter prison escapes.

Posted on March 18, 2013 at 9:38 AM • 26 Comments

Comments

Mike BMarch 18, 2013 10:00 AM

I'd commute their sentences based on the amount of effort involved in their escape plan.

EricMarch 18, 2013 10:06 AM

Here's the problem: "Slack-jawed prison guards watched as the helicopter then spirited away as two of their prisoners clung on."

Z.LozinskiMarch 18, 2013 10:24 AM

This looks very similar to the escape of 3 Provisional IRA prisoners from Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, 31 Oct 1973, about 40 years ago.

One of the challenges in Dublin was that the prison officers thought the helicopter was carrying the Minister of Defence. The Alouette helicopter used by the escapees was similar to model in service in the Irish Army at this time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountjoy_Prison_helicopter_escape

Petréa MitchellMarch 18, 2013 10:57 AM

Could a Canadian please explain the meaning of "sugar shack" in the context of this story? I can think of several possible definitions, and the results from my favorite search engine are inconclusive.

A frenchyMarch 18, 2013 11:05 AM

There where a few cases in France about 20 years ago. Since then most prison yards are covered with an antievasion net of wires that doesn't let enough space for shoulders.
Problem solved.

MarcMarch 18, 2013 11:06 AM

A 'sugar shack' in Canada is a building where maple syrup is made. Rural (near the trees!), often rustic, sometimes a tourist destination.

dandrakaMarch 18, 2013 12:02 PM

Oh come on. This has happened, like, 3-4 times in Greece alone.

Sure, it's impressive but by no means unprecedented.

Dirk PraetMarch 18, 2013 12:22 PM

We had one like it back in 2009, when one Ashraf Sekkaki and two other inmates escaped from Bruges prison, Belgium, using a helicopter hijacked by two accomplices. They fled to Morocco where he was captured and sentenced to 12 years in a Moroccon prison for the Bruges escape. He received an additional 18 months for successfully breaking out of his holding cell prior to said trial.

Although considered one of Belgium's most dangerous criminals, he's also considered one of it's most stupid for fleeing to Morocco, a country that has a much harsher prison regime, does not have Belgian Lejeune-like legislation allowing a convict to walk out after serving a third of his sentence and where escaping from prison - contrary to Belgium - does constitute a serious criminal offense. As usual when confronted with problems a three year old can solve, it took the government several years to implement anti-evasion nets over prison yards and other controls to mitigate the risk of such escapes.

For a more complete list of prison break-outs by helicopter, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_helicopter_prison_escapes .

Bob TMarch 18, 2013 1:09 PM

One story said the helicopter was a Robinson R44. They're lucky that thing even got off the ground with 5 people on board. It probably wouldn't have on a warm summer day.

Richard MasonerMarch 18, 2013 2:38 PM

"Once they were in the air, the men held a gun to the pilot's head and reportedly ordered him to fly to Saint-Jerome."

What are these desperados gonna do if the pilot refuses to fly to the prison? Shoot him? And then what?

FigureitoutMarch 19, 2013 1:54 AM

@Richard Masoner
--Good point, push the attackers to their brink; see what they do. Sometimes you can scare them b/c they're bluffing and if every target is resisting (like let's say they attack 1*106 random addresses & maybe they start noticing some funny things w/ their systems) they can't attack as many people (instead of liftoff they are weighed-down). So the victim is making a conscious decision to begin the suction process for the attackers in a blackhole (and I guess enjoy as they get whatever happens when something gets sucked into a blackhole:) The attacker can now make a decision to get sucked into hell or GTFO and attack less aggressive victims.

This is the "Defense of the Future". Basically any target you attack (b/c there will be so many targets, you need self-control), will be expecting that and will locate you and....(just spread the cheeks). SO, attacking people will become less practical b/c there won't be any windows for it. AND, finally, humanity can focus on being a single race and we can hopefully expand in the solar system and improve our morality and be a positive influence on nature.

Basically, I want attackers to think "nothing's happening"; when in fact they're getting raped (b/c I only attack Known attackers, and I verify b/c I currently have no life besides putting attackers in their little place b/c "No, you are weak".). If you aren't attacking, you don't need to think about me getting real deep in you. True Defenders always are stronger and smarter b/c they can predict your stupid attack b/c they've dealt w/ all kinds of sick attacks and can w/ patterns put you in a box.

Attackers of the future will be less curious b/c they know what will be waiting for them when they act. Thus they need more space; so hopefully they learn morals and act appropriately or humans spread filth in the universe (which is a terribly humbling thought).

@Bob T
--The heli-fail was hilarious; seriously I can always rely on nerds to make me really laugh (like: heehaw, like a donkey).

dandrakaMarch 19, 2013 3:56 AM

@Richard Masoner

If I was the pilot, I would be afraid that they would shoot me after landing.

Miguel FarahMarch 19, 2013 6:14 AM

There was a similar escape in Chile in December 1996. Several members of a terrorist group were in the local "maximum security" jail. Other members of the same group stole a helicopter and flew to the jail, descending low enough for a custom-built shielded basket hanging from the helicopter with heavy-duty ropes, allowing the inmates to hop in and fly away. The operation was quick - quick enough for two of the escapees to not be able to actually hop in - they had to hang to the side of the basket, but had the luck of not getting shot.

As you can imagine, this was a major scandal in Chile. The idea of a "maximum security" jail having an open-air patio was widely derided (many, many people mentioned the whole plan would have been averted with a few meters of chicken wire) and the Gendarmería de Chile (jail police) took a lot of flak. Even though the guards were caught by surprise (and shot at from the helicopter with machine guns), no one in the watchtowers thought of shooting at the inside of the basket, which would have made hopping inside a very bad idea indeed.

Jeff MartinMarch 19, 2013 8:30 AM

I am interested in what the response will be. Will they try to chase vulnerabilities by putting up some costly countermeasure for this once in a lifetime event? Or will they accept that their monitoring and response capabilities were 100% successful?

SJMarch 19, 2013 10:21 AM

Here's the problem: "Slack-jawed prison guards watched as the helicopter then spirited away as two of their prisoners clung on."

Helicopters are fairly hard for an individual to attack, unless the individual has a shoulder-launched SAM.

Guards are trained to do several things, and probably have freedom to shoot at escaping prisoners and outsiders aiding in escape.

However, training probably doesn't include lots of how-to-deal-with-helicopter scenarios.

Despite the number of instances referenced here, helicopter-aided escapes are rare. If only 10% of the total that have happened since the invention of helicopters are listed here, that still averages to never-happens-in-the-entire-career-of-most-prison-guards.

But I suspect that the commenters here have listed more than 50% of all known helicopter-aided escapes from prison.

Also note that the Police had enough data about the prisoners-and-accomplices to round them up afterwards. I suspect that this is the case for many prison escapes. However the prisoners get out, the escapees have to do a perfect disappearing act (or have enough friends on the outside who will actively work to help them avoid recapture).

Steven HooberMarch 19, 2013 11:16 AM

SJ, interesting security mindset. Sounds like you are saying if you haven't personally encountered it before there's no chance you can deal with the threat.

First, since the 1970s helicopters have been a known threat. Open air areas in prisons (well, in the first world, mostly) have wires or overhead fencing now to prevent this, among other things.

And then there's the principles of training. Tell your guards about various types of escapes. Give them mitigating practices.

And then there's principles at all. You are allowed (let's assume) to shoot at escaping prisoners. And let's also say, anyone helping with an escape, on prison grounds. This clearly extends to vehicles, as we have barricades and weapons specifically designed to stop/penetrate vehicles. That logically extends to ANY vehicle.

A helicopter, hovering, is about as hard to hit as a building. Not at all difficult, especially since it's shouting distance from you. Shoot at the people in it, if nothing else.

Pseudonymous CowardMarch 19, 2013 11:31 AM

As the American empire inches closer to the inevitable fate of all empires - collapse and oblivion - expect to see more Iraqi-style escapes.

That is, ones where a rocket is used to demolish a wall, any guard foolish enough to get in the way is machine-gunned, and an arbitrary number of inmates escapes - perhaps to help repeat the performance elsewhere.

Dirk PraetMarch 19, 2013 5:58 PM

@ Steven Hoober, SJ

Helicopters are fairly hard for an individual to attack, unless the individual has a shoulder-launched SAM.

A helicopter, hovering, is about as hard to hit as a building.

As demonstrated by Bruce Willis/John McClane in Live Free or Die Hard.

George JMarch 20, 2013 1:56 PM

If it is true the pilot was hijacked AFTER they were in the air, what was the pilot thinking when the "tourists" came aboard with what must have been a considerably large and heavy load of rope or cable? And two escapees pulled up manually by cable or rope into the helicopter by two men without mechanical assistance?

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