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Dissecting the daring helicopter escape from a Quebec jail

A Daring Escape

It had the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster. Two hijackers commandeered a helicopter and sprung two inmates from a Quebec jail. The plan worked, if only for a short time. Each step of their jailbreak is detailed below.

The Boarding

On Sunday, helicopter pilot Sébastien Foray expected to take two passengers for a flight around the ski resort of Mont-Tremblant, north of Montreal. At 2:20 p.m., two men posing as tourists boarded the four-seater Robinson R44 helicopter.

The Detour

Once aloft, one of the two men pointed a firearm at Mr. Foray's head and ordered him to fly the helicopter to St-Jérôme prison, a provincial detention centre with a maximum-security wing about 80 kilometres southwest of Mont-Tremblant.

The Jailbreak

The helicopter landed on the jail’s roof. A thick green climbing rope was flung to the prison courtyard, where Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau, 36, and Danny Provencal, 33, were waiting. The pair harnessed themselves to the rope and were pulled up from the compound. Within two minutes of takeoff, Mr. Foray dropped the chopper to the ground in a field and the two fugitives climbed aboard.

The Getaway

Mr. Foray tried to radio an emergency signal to air traffic control, but the fugitives ripped off his headset. He was forced to land in a hotel parking lot in L’Esterel, 50 km north, and the fugitives departed with accomplices in a black Cadillac SUV and fled along Chemin de Chertsey toward Chertsey.

The Release

The fugitives left Mr. Foray with a T-shirt covering his head. Once Mr. Foray felt it was safe, he removed the mask, dug out another headset the hijackers overlooked to contact authorities, and flew back to his base at Mont-Tremblant. He was taken to hospital to be treated for shock.

The Manhunt

Police deployed units, police dogs, helicopters and negotiators. They tailed an SUV believed to be ferrying the escapees and accomplices to Chertsey. Gunfire was exchanged before the suspects broke into a cottage. The residents managed to flee.

The Capture

Just before 8:30 p.m., police confirmed they arrested Mr. Hudon-Barbeau and two others, identified later as Yagé Beaudoin, 24, and Mathieu Marchisio, 21. Police then located Mr. Provencal in a sugar shack. He surrendered peacefully. Mr. Hudon-Barbeau was taken to hospital and was treated under guard.

A prison van containing the four suspects involved the escape leaves the courthouse. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)
3D modelling by TONIA COWAN
Interactive by STUART A. THOMPSON

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