June 23, 2014 / 4:13 PM / 6 years ago

Canadian helicopter gang charged with prison break

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Three men who escaped a Quebec prison yard by helicopter this month appeared in court on Monday and received new charges on top of the drug and murder charges they already faced, Canadian media reported.

Taking no chances after the brazen escape the night of June 7, police drove the men in three separate convoys to the Quebec City courthouse where they appeared after being recaptured early Sunday morning in a police raid on the upscale Montreal condominium in which they had been hiding out.

The Quebec prosecutor’s office laid charges of prison breach and escaping lawful custody against the trio, media outlets reported. These carry maximum prison sentences of 10 years and two years, respectively.

It was the second airborne prison break in the largely French-speaking Canadian province in just over a year, and authorities have begun to arrange to put cables across at least some prison yards to prevent new helicopter landings.

Police are still searching for the helicopter pilot, whoever rented the condominium and others who may have assisted the men in their escape from the medium-security Orsainville Detention Centre.

The jail is located on the outskirts of Quebec City, the capital of the province, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of the U.S. border.

The three fugitives, Yves Denis, Denis Lefebvre and Serge Pomerleau, were arrested on drug and gang-related charges in 2010. Police said earlier this month they also face murder charges and had been in Orsainville awaiting trial.

The escape was similar to one in March 2013, when two men broke out of a prison in Saint-Jerome, Quebec, after climbing a rope to a helicopter hovering above the prison’s yard. Both of those men were captured within hours of the escape.

It is also similar to the escape of U.S. businessman Joel David Kaplan, who was plucked from a Mexican prison by a helicopter in 1971. That escape was dramatized in the 1975 film “Breakout”, starring Charles Bronson.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway

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