Helicopter escape could happen anywhere, president of guards' union says

The Orsainville Detention Centre. Didier Debusschere/QMI Agency

The Orsainville Detention Centre. Didier Debusschere/QMI Agency

Brian Daly, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:38 AM ET

MONTREAL — No Canadian prison is helicopter-proof, the head of Quebec's jail guards' union told QMI Agency while police continued to hunt for three accused murderers who were airlifted to freedom Sunday.

Mathieu Lavoie pointed out that in March 2013, two other inmates used a hijacked helicopter to escape a jail north of Montreal.

"The minister at the time said it was spectacular, but exceptional," Lavoie said. "He said that we wouldn't see it again."

Just 15 months later, a chopper landed in the middle of the yard at Orsainville Detention Centre just north of Quebec City.

Yves Denis, 25, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49 climbed aboard, flew away and were still at large as of Monday afternoon, police said.

Authorities allege Pomerleau is the mastermind of a narcotics network that was dismantled during a 2010 police operation called Project Crayfish. Lefebvre and Denis are also accused of participating in the drug ring. The men are charged with two counts of murder and drug-related offences.

The union suggested correctional officers aren't properly equipped to prevent a helicopter escape.

"When you see a helicopter land in the backyard of the prison, we don't know if the people on board are armed," Lavoie said.

"We can't do anything, it's a feeling of powerlessness."

The escapees were among 17 inmates who had gathered in the yard when the chopper landed.

Lavoie said it would have taken 20 officers to watch the crowd, which would have required a risky redeployment from other areas of the jail.

Public Security Minister Lise Theriault said Quebec will discuss jail security with its federal government counterparts.

Tighter regulations governing airspace over penitentiaries might be in order, Theriault said. Her department has also floated the idea of installing steel wiring over jail yards.

Theriault said there will be a review to determine why the security level of the three escaped prisoners had recently been downgraded.

 


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