Police with helicopters are searching two murderers who have escaped from a maximum security jail in New York near the Canadian border. A female prison employee is being questioned about her alleged role in their escape.
David Sweat, 34, and Richard Matt, 48, broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York at some point between 10:30 p.m. local time on Friday and 5:30 a.m. the following morning.
The two men used power tools to cut holes in their steel cell walls and a long network of pipes leading out of the prison to a manhole cover in a public street. The escape process could have taken days to complete.
Early on Monday New York State Police said there was no new information to report.
Prisoners are visually checked every two hours during the night at Dannemora but before their escape the inmates had made replicas of themselves with clothing to make it look like they were sleeping with sweatshirt hoods pulled up. Their escape was not discovered until the inmates' head count on Saturday morning at 05:30.
New York State Police released a statement saying: "More than 150 leads have been developed since the escape was reported. State Police, DOCCS, and federal investigative personnel as well as surrounding agencies are following up on each lead. Several aircraft from state and federal agencies are also being utililzed."
The state of New York has offered a $100,000 (89,000-euro) reward for information leading to their arrest.
Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a "crisis situation" as the two men were still on the run more than 24 hours after their escape. At a press briefing Cuomo admitted they could be in Canada, New York state or in a neighboring state such as Vermont.
"The truth is we have a number of leads but nothing that would lead us to a specific conclusion about where they are," Cuomo said. "I would not put it past them whatsoever that they could have acquired an automobile or have had a rendezvous with someone on the outside," he said.
It is the first escape from the prison since it was built in 1844. The Clinton Correctional Facility originally served as a site where prisoners worked in local mines in both Dannemora and nearby Lyon Mountain. Sometimes referred to as Dannemora, its name comes from its location in Clinton County, New York.
A female prison worker has been suspended from duty as she is questioned on allegations of helping the men to escape.
Both convicts are from upstate New York and were serving long sentences for brutal killings. Matt was serving 25 years to life for beating to death and then dismembering his former boss, William Rickerson, in 1997. Sweat was serving life without parole for the murder of a deputy sheriff in 2002. Sweat shot Broome County deputy Kevin Tarsia 22 times.
jm/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)