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Inmates escape Canadian prison in helicopter

By Susan Candiotti, Ross Levitt and Dana Ford

(CNN) — Canadian police arrested Sunday three people in connection with a daring helicopter escape from a Quebec prison.

Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau, one of two escaped inmates is in custody, along with two other people, said Quebec provincial police spokesman Benoit Richard. Dany Provencal, the second inmate, is “surrounded,” and authorities are negotiating to bring him in peacefully, he said.

“I can tell you one thing: The two people that were inside the jail needed help to get out,” Richard told CNN.

The spokesman declined to identify the other two people arrested. He also declined to say where the arrests took place, under what circumstances, or where Provencal was located. The three people arrested will appear in court Monday morning.

The escape happened at around 2:20 p.m. ET Sunday at a prison in Saint-Jerome, northwest of Montreal.

The pilot was taken to a hospital for examination and will be interviewed by investigators, Richard said. He did not know whether the pilot had been injured and declined to speculate on news reports that said the inmates had held a gun to the pilot’s head, forcing him to fly.

Richard told CNN the pilot is considered a witness, not a suspect.

Hudon-Barbeau was cleared on appeal of a double murder, but returned to prison in connection with an attempted murder investigation, the spokesman said. He did not know what Provencal was convicted of.

After the escape, a man claiming to be Hudon-Barbeau spoke to a reporter at 98.5 FM in Montreal, by phone.

“I don’t want to cause any harm to anybody. I am not a killer. I never did anything bad to an innocent. I know that (the escape) wasn’t the best thing to do, but I didn’t want to stay in prison anymore. I am ready to die,” the station reported he said.

It also reported that the helicopter involved approached the prison and dropped a cable that allowed the inmates to escape. The helicopter was later found at Mont-Tremblant, also in Quebec.

Once the helicopter landed, Hudon-Barbeau and Provencal are believed to have left in a car. Authorities were looking for that car, but Richard declined to provide a description of it. After the arrests, he said he didn’t know whether the vehicle had been found.

Officials are doing a headcount at the prison to make sure that no one else is unaccounted for, the spokesman said.

CNN’s Susan Candiotti and Ross Levitt reported from New York. Dana Ford wrote this report from Atlanta. CNN’s Paula Newton and Alexander Hunter also contributed to this report.

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