Copter Prison Escape Attempt Fails : Aircraft Crashes as Drug Kingpin Leaps Aboard; Would-Be Escapee and Pilot Seriously Injured
A helicopter plucked a drug kingpin from a prison yard today but crashed as it took off, seriously injuring the inmate and the pilot, officials said.
The helicopter went down about 10 a.m. after a propeller caught concertina wire atop the wall at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Benjamin (Barry) Kramer, a champion powerboat racer serving a life sentence, and the pilot, whose identity was not immediately known, were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital after the escape attempt, U.S. Marshal Daniel Horgan said.
“Prison guards immediately extracted Kramer and the pilot out of the wreckage and administered first aid. They were hurt quite seriously,” Horgan said.
“Ironically, they were taken by helicopter to the hospital,”’ Horgan said.
Initial reports indicated that the pilot suffered head, neck and back injuries and that Kramer, 34, fractured his left ankle.
Metropolitan is the major prison for drug traffickers and others arrested for federal crimes in South Florida.
Among about 1,000 inmates are Miami policemen convicted of running a drug rip-off ring and others convicted of large-scale cocaine and marijuana trafficking or awaiting trial.
Warden John Clark said that the helicopter reportedly hovered just above the recreation yard and that Kramer grabbed onto a ski and was either climbing into the craft or was aboard when it crashed.
Some witnesses said a second inmate may have tried to climb aboard, he said.
“It appears he was ready,” Clark said. “According to witnesses, he ran to the helicopter and jumped on as soon as it swooped down.”
The pilot carried an identification for Charles Clayton Sterns, but the warden said authorities suspect that the ID may have been intended for Kramer.
Kramer was convicted in October in Illinois federal court of running a continuing criminal enterprise and was sentenced to life without parole under the “drug kingpin” law, Horgan said. Kramer was moved here in December in connection with federal charges in Florida for distribution of marijuana.
Kramer was exercising in a part of the prison reserved for escape risks, including anyone serving a life term.
The wrecked helicopter was a two-seat Bell-model bubble type.