01:40 - Source: CNN
Three prisoners escape using helicopter

Story highlights

NEW: Police say helicopter took off with three prisoners in Quebec City

The men escaped from the detention center Saturday night

Authorities are trying to get details on what happened

It's the second brazen jail escape in Canada in a little over a year

CNN  — 

In a daring operation worthy of a movie, three men escaped from a Canadian jail by helicopter, prompting a massive manhunt, authorities said.

The men escaped from a detention center Saturday night in Quebec City.

“A helicopter touched down briefly in the courtyard before taking off with the three prisoners,” said Ann Mathieu, a spokeswoman for Quebec Provincial Police.

“We are talking closely with the detention center to figure out exactly how the escape transpired,” Mathieu told CNN partner CBC. “The priority … is to find the helicopter.”

A manhunt is under way for Yves Denis Yvon Lamontagne, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49.

Denis Lefebvre
Serge Pomerleau
Yves Denis Yvon Lamontagne

The first two men were arrested in a drug bust in 2010 and were awaiting trial. Police found weapons, dozens of cars and a plane during the bust, it said. There was no information provided on the third suspect.

It marks the second brazen jail escape in Canada in a little more than a year.

In March 2013, two men posing as tourists commandeered a helicopter from a Canadian tour company, ordered the pilot to fly over a detention center near Montreal, hoisted two inmates into the hovering aircraft using cables – and zipped away.

It was a real “James Bond moment,” witness Francis Emond said about last year’s escape from the facility in Saint-Jerome, northwest of Montreal.

While spectacular, airborne escapes are not unprecedented.

Albanian inmate Alket Rizaj broke out of a maximum security prison in Greece twice – in 2006 and 2009.

On both occasions, accomplices swooped in to the prison’s courtyard on helicopters. Inmates then climbed aboard using rope ladders.

Both times, Rizaj was recaptured.

Last year, another prison escape in Greece tried to use the same tactic.

But the plot was foiled when the prisoner was shot and the chopper was forced to land on the prison parking lot.

In 1971, Joel David Kaplan escaped from a Mexican jail aboard a helicopter. The New Yorker’s flight inspired the book “The 10-Second Jailbreak: The Helicopter Escape of Joel David Kaplan” and the 1975 movie “Breakout.”

And in France, Pascal Payet escaped not once, not twice, but three times from French prisons.

Each time, he was recaptured.

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CNN’s Holly Yan contributed to this report.