Suspects arrested in chopper prison escape

The Robinson R44 helicopter that was hijacked and used to break out two prisoners from a detention...

The Robinson R44 helicopter that was hijacked and used to break out two prisoners from a detention center in St-Jerome, Quebec, Sunday, March 17, 2013. On the left front seat is the rope that was used. MICHEL DESBIENS/QMI AGENCY

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

SAINT-JEROME, Que. — Four people are in custody including two inmates of a maximum-security jail north of Montreal who made a brazen daylight escape when a hijacked helicopter dropped a cable to the convicts and flew off.

One of the escapees, Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau, 36, had earlier vowed "to die," saying he was fed up with doing time.

It's believed the helicopter, owned by Heli-Tremblant, was hijacked by two gunmen posing as tourists who wanted to fly over the region.

Once in the air, they aimed their weapons at the pilot's head and forced him to fly to Saint-Jérôme, Que.

The pilot tried to alert air traffic controllers about the hijacking and the gunmen ripped off his headset, sources said.

Once the helicopter was hovering above the provincial maximum-security Saint-Jérôme detention centre 60 km north of Montreal, the gunmen dropped a rope to the two prisoners at about 2:20 p.m.

The rope was found in the woods a short distance away and it's speculated that the convicts met up with others involved in the daring breakout plot and possibly drove off in a Cadillac Escalade towards Chertsey, in the Lanaudière region.

Quebec police moved in on the area and witnesses said gunshots could be heard.

The suspects then holed up in a cottage near Chertsey, Que.

Police located the helicopter in Mont-Tremblant and are interviewing the pilot who is in hospital suffering from shock.

Dany Provencal, 33, who has a lengthy criminal record, was the last of the group to be arrested shortly after midnight Monday. A security perimeter had been erected in the area of the cabin and negotiations were held to convince him to surrender to authorities.

Sgt. Benoit Richard, spokesman for the Sûreté du Québec, said Provencal did so peacefully.

Provencal escaped with fellow inmate Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau, 36, who has links to the Hells Angels and had been in prison for six years for weapons offences. He was also acquitted of attempted murder.

Hudon-Barbeau contacted TVA television network and Montreal radio station 98.5 FM after the escape and said he had been shot in the calf.

He added that he was "ready to die" and didn't want to spend any more time behind bars.

"It will end badly. I'll kill myself. I'm 36 years old, I was told that I would die in prison," he told the radio station.

Hudon-Barbeau went on to say police had offered him $3.2 million to be an informant.

"It sounds crazy, but I'd rather die than become an informer," he said.

Officials of the detention centre, which houses about 500 inmates, declined comment.


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