5 Use Copter to Break Out of Prison
Five prisoners broke out of a maximum security prison in Puerto Rico on Monday, clambering onto a roof where a helicopter landed to swoop them away, local authorities said.
Police described the prisoners as “very dangerous” and said they were all serving sentences in excess of 100 years for murder and other crimes.
Two unidentified men rented the helicopter from Caribbean Helicorp in San Juan, telling company representatives they needed to inspect construction work in the southern city of Ponce.
As they approached Ponce, they forced the pilot at gunpoint to land on the roof of Las Cucharas prison, officials said.
The prison break occurred during a morning recreation period. The five prisoners fled the recreation area and scrambled onto the roof, where the helicopter was awaiting them.
The copter flew them to a remote area in the Caribbean island’s central mountains, where the group escaped, officials said.
The pilot, whose name was not released, then called police with his cellular telephone.
“This is an extremely worrisome event,” said Corrections Secretary Miguel Periera, a former police chief who took over his new post earlier this month. “In no way will the Corrections Department rest. We will work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until we find the fugitives and arrest those responsible.”
Periera promised an exhaustive investigation of internal security at the prison, because authorities believe the fugitives may have had help from guards within the institution.
One guard was immediately suspended for failing to properly supervise the recreation area.
Periera said police and correction agents were conducting a large manhunt in the area where the fugitives are believed to have been released.
They identified them as Orlando Valdes Cartagena, Jose A. Perez Rodriguez, Victor Gonzalez Diaz, Hector Marrero Diaz and Jose M. Rojas Tapia.