5 infamous helicopter prison escapes

TORONTO – Authorities across Canada and in the United States are on alert, watching for three murder suspects who escaped from a Quebec City-area jail.

The three jumped into a helicopter that landed in the courtyard of the Orsainville Detention Centre Saturday night.

The escapees were identified as Yves Denis, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49.

Yves Denis is shown in this police handout photo

Surete Du Quebec

Serge Pomerleau is shown in this police handout photo.

Surete Du Quebec

Denis Lefebvre is shown in this police handout photo.

Surete Du Quebec

Just last year, two men staged a dramatic daylight jailbreak when they escaped from a jail in Saint-Jerome, Que. by climbing a rope into a hovering helicopter.

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  • Massive manhunt for three inmates who escaped Quebec prison

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Their freedom, however, was short-lived. The two escapees and two men accused of hijacking the chopper were caught within a few hours.

The movie-like chopper jailbreaks aren’t the first of their kind.

Here’s a look at other infamous helicopter prison escapes.

Alket Rizaj and Vassilis Paleokostas

Inmates Alket Rizaj and Vassilis Paleokostas escaped twice by helicopter from a maximum-security prison in Athens, Greece, with a fellow inmate in 2006 and 2009. Both were recaptured separately.

Rizaj attempted to break out of another Greek lockup this weekend, this time without a helicopter, and surrendered to police after a 24-hour standoff.

Alexei Shestakov

In March 2012, 35-year-old Alexei Shestakov was whisked away in the village of Sheksna, just north of Moscow, Russia. Two of Shestakov’s accomplices hijacked a helicopter at gunpoint and forced the pilot to fly to the jail.

Shestakov was ambushed by police several miles away from the town and was slightly injured in an exchange of fire.

The abandoned aircraft was discovered on the side of the road while the pilot, gagged and bound, was found just a few kilometres away.

Pascal Payet

French prisoner Pascal Payet used a helicopter to escape on three occasions, only to be caught by authorities each time.

Payet, serving a 30-year jail term for killing a guard during the holdup of an armoured car, was moved from one prison to another every three months because of his escape habit and currently holds the record for the most chopper prison escapes.

Mountjoy Prison

In 1973, while prisoners at Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison watched a football match in the prison’s exercise yard, a trio of IRA men were freed by a comrade in a hijacked helicopter. The prisoners were met by members of IRA’s Dublin Brigade where they were transferred into to a hijacked taxi and transported to safe houses.

The escape became immortalized by the ballad “The Helicopter Song” which included lyrics like “It’s up like a bird and over the prison / There’s three men a missing I heard the warden say.”

Joel David Kaplan

Believed to be one of the earliest helicopter prison escapes, New York businessman Joel David Kaplan used a chopper to escape from a Mexican jail in 1971, and went on to write the book The 10-Second Jailbreak. The caper also inspired the 1975 movie Breakout, starring Charles Bronson.

  – with files from The Canadian Press

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