2nd inmate captured after brazen Quebec jailbreak, chopper ride
Quebec provincial police have arrested four people, including two escaped inmates, after a brazen jailbreak and an escape via helicopter Sunday afternoon.
The escape happened early afternoon from a jail where there have been complaints of overcrowding and reduced staff on weekends.
Just before 8:30 p.m., police confirmed they had arrested Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau and two other suspects, in the Chertsey, Que., area, about 50 km north of the jail in Saint-Jerome.
An hour later, police had located the second escapee, Danny Provencal, and set up a stakeout in the area.
Sgt. Benoit Richard said Provencal was holed up in a sugar-shack type of structure and had surrendered peacefully without incident.
"It was very peaceful. Nobody was injured," said Richard.
The men are due in court Monday morning.
Surete du Quebec officers launched a manhunt Sunday afternoon after the inmates escaped from the correctional facility in Saint-Jerome, about a half-hour northwest of Montreal, around 2:20 p.m. local time.
A helicopter approached the facility and appeared to hover over the ground, according to CTV Montreal reporter Derek Conlon.
“At that point, two of the inmates came out and appeared to attach themselves to cables that were attached to the helicopter,” Conlon reported. “The helicopter then took off with these two men suspended underneath and it flew away, much to the surprise and astonishment of everyone in the area.”
Eyewitness Francis Emond described the incident as “a James Bond moment.”
Police located the helicopter and the pilot about 85 kilometres away in Mont-Tremblant. The pilot was taken to hospital and was to be questioned by police.
Surete du Quebec Sgt. Benoit Richard told The Canadian Press that investigators have yet to confirm what role the pilot played in the escape. Earlier reports suggested the escapees held a gun to the pilot’s head.
Conlon reported that a man who claimed to be Hudon-Barbeau, who is believed to have ties to the Hells Angels, had called a Montreal radio station to say he had been shot in the leg. However, police told Conlon they could not confirm whether any shots had been fired during the escape.
In an audio recording released by Montreal’s 98.5FM, the man said in French: “I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just don’t want to stay in prison, and I’m ready to die.”
Benoit said that more than 50 officers were working the case, including a number who had gone to the jail to determine exactly what happened.
He said he had never heard of such an incident in more than 20 years as a policeman.
Last month, the prison in Saint-Jerome was rocked by a small riot involving about a dozen prisoners. The facility holds about 480 inmates.
Yves Galarneau, the correctional services manager who oversees the Saint-Jerome facility, told reporters that current security measures do not cover the potential for a jailbreak involving a helicopter.
“As far as I know, it’s a first in Quebec,” Galarneau said. “It’s exceptional.”
CTV Montreal’s Stephane Giroux said Sunday that Quebec’s provincial jails, such as the Saint-Jerome facility, are overwhelmed with an increase in prisoners on weekends who arrive to serve short sentences.
That leads to some over-crowding, Giroux said.