It wasn’t exactly the Great Escape.
Newly released video from a bold, but awkward, prison break in Quebec shows the two inmates who got away struggled for nearly six minutes to get over the prison walls.
Guards did not intervene.
In a video of the 2013 incident made public Tuesday, convicts Danny Provencal and Benjamin Hudon-Barbeau can be seen desperately trying to climb a rope dangling from a hijacked helicopter sitting on the prison’s roof.
At one point, Hudon-Barbeau can be seen clambering over Provencal, only to get stuck with his groin thrust in Provencal’s face. Hudon-Barbeau then strips off his gloves and tries to grasp the hand of an accomplice on the roof. But this fails and Hudon-Barbeau falls the short distance back to the ground.
The video was recorded by guards at the facility in Saint-Jerome, near Montreal, on March 17, 2013.
The escape plot was hatched via text messages on smuggled cellphones.
Later in the video, Provencal can be seen wrapping the rope around his feet and holding on, as the helicopter lifts off. The helicopter hovers back and forth for a few moments, bringing Provencal close to the ledge. But that tactic fails, too.
Eventually, the helicopter lifts off with the inmates dangling from the rope and carries them out beyond the prison walls.
The four suspects eventually forced the pilot of the hijacked helicopter to land and they made their getaway in a car. The pilot was found unharmed.
Provencal, Hudon-Barbeau and their accomplices were arrested just hours later. The two inmates have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the hijacking and escape.
The union that represents the prison guards says they did not have guns to confront the armed accomplices, and so they had no option but to simply watch through the security cameras.
At least one accomplice can be seen holding what appears to be a handgun in the video.
The union says the facility has not taken sufficient steps to improve security, so that another such incident can be prevented.
In fact, just 15 months after this ham-handed escape, a helicopter was used again to lift three inmates out of Orsainville near Quebec City.
Those inmates weren’t found for two weeks.
Now, as part of a pilot project, guards in two prisons are being searched routinely in an effort to keep cellphones out and the province has installed physical barriers over some small prison courtyards.
But at least one security expert says it’s not enough.
“There are other measures that could have been taken.
A mesh, a security mesh, could have been used on the court yard to prevent them from even attempting that escape,” said prison security consultant Colin Lobo. New facilities have fully enclosed courtyards to prevent these types of prison breaks.
“As soon as this type of incident occurs once, it should be treated as a top priority. Having occurred twice within a short period of time, that really tells you that the officials need to do something about this. They need to treat this as a very serious issue to prevent this from happening again.”
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux says he’s working on it.
“Our procedures within the jail have been improved, so (an escape is) less likely with the recommendations that we’ve implemented.”