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Search Is On For Two New York Prison Escapees
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Search Is On For Two New York Prison Escapees

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Search Is On For Two New York Prison Escapees

Search Is On For Two New York Prison Escapees
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A massive manhunt is underway in New York for two convicted murders who escaped Saturday from a maximum security facility in upstate New York.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A massive manhunt is underway this morning in New York State for two men, both convicted murderers described as highly dangerous. They escaped early yesterday from one of the most secure maximum-security prisons in the U.S. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann reports.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: This escape is like something out of a "Prison Break" movie, so elaborate, so improbable that state officials here in Dannemora, N.Y., seemed shocked Saturday afternoon. Anthony Annucci is New York's acting corrections commissioner. He spoke just outside the prison's fortress-like white walls.

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ANTHONY ANNUCCI: There was a hole cut out of the back of the cell in which these inmates escaped and had power tools and were able to get out through this facility through tunnels cutting their way in several spots.

MANN: Without being noticed, Richard Matt and David Sweat used those power tools to cut through a steel wall and also to carve holes in a steam pipe that they squeezed through to reach a manhole cover on a nearby street. After being shown the mazelike route, the two inmates followed. Governor Andrew Cuomo actually seemed impressed.

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ANDREW CUOMO: When you look at how it was done, it was extraordinary. I mean, we went through the titles. You look at the precision of the operation, it was truly extraordinary and almost impossible to duplicate.

MANN: The men who Cuomo described as a serious threat to the community left dummies in their cots that fooled corrections officers despite bed checks every two hours. Their disappearance was finally noticed just before 6 a.m. Saturday morning. Richard Matt was convicted of beating a man to death in 1997. David Sweat murdered a sheriff in 2002. Major Charles Guess with New York State police is leading the manhunt.

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MAJOR CHARLES GUESS: We are putting on a full-court press and of chief concern is the safety of the community and the citizens of the State of New York.

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MANN: That full-court press includes a fleet of helicopters with support from the Department of Homeland Security and more than 200 officers scouring this region six hours north of New York City. At checkpoints like this one, offers were carefully searching vehicles.

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UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Still looking for both of them. If you see them or think you've seen them, contact state place immediately.

MANN: State police say so far, there are no solid leads. Rich Green owns a pizza shop in Dannemora, a stone's throw from the prison's gate. He says he's not worried for his or his family's safety.

RICH GREEN: Absolutely not. I guarantee you, they're probably gone already. If I was going to escape from prison, I wouldn't stick around town. I'd be gone.

MANN: This huge state prison in northern New York was built in the 1840s, and authorities say this is the first time inmates have ever escaped from the maximum-security area. Governor Cuomo says there are a lot of unanswered questions about how these men acquired the information, the expertise and the equipment needed to hatch their plot.

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CUOMO: And one of the big questions is where did the tools come from?

MANN: Also, why weren't the men overheard while cutting their way out? Prison officials don't have good answers yet. They say they're reaching out to private contractors who have been working inside the prison to see if some of their tools might have been stolen and used in the escape. For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in northern New York.

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