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Saturday, 24 March, 2001, 20:05 GMT
Helicopter escape from French prison
Escape helicopter
The convicts abandoned the helicopter and transfered to a getaway car
Three prisoners have escaped by helicopter from a jail in the south of France, prison authorities said.

An accomplice hijacked the helicopter from an airfield at nearby St Tropez and forced its pilot to fly to the prison in Draguignan.

Area of the prison
The helicopter landed in a courtyard of the prison that had no protective netting overhead.

The three inmates - who are described as "dangerous" - jumped aboard and it took off before guards had time to react, prison officials and local police said.

"The whole thing was over in a flash," a prison guard said.

Getaway car waiting

The helicopter landed some 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the jail near the village of Auribeau-sur-Siagne, where the pilot was released and a getaway car was waiting.

After the escape prison officials immediately dispatched search teams around the region.

The convicts have been identified as Emile Forma-Sari and Jean-Philippe Lecase - both of whom are Corsican - and Abdelhamid Carnous, whose nationality was not immediately known.

All three were convicted of armed robberies and other crimes and one of the men was serving a sentence until 2012, police said.

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