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Greek Heli Prison Break Fails (This Time)

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A helicopter dropped a rope into Trikala prison's courtyard, near Athens, Sunday, in an apparent attempt to free convicted murderer Panagiotis Vlastos, but the event ended with no escape, a helicopter riddled with bullets, and Vlastos being shot in the legs. Some 500 shots were reportedly fired during the escape attempt as guards exchanged gunfire with at least two gunmen aboard the helicopter. A Kalaskinov assault rifle and two Uzi submachine guns were later found aboard the helicopter. The aircraft appears to be a Eurocopter. Its pilot has said he was forced by the gunmen to participate. The aircraft landed in the prison parking lot after the failed escape attempt, exhibiting multiple bullet holes. Two prior prison breaks that took place in Greece during the past decade also involved helicopters. Both were more successful.

As the aircraft arrived to the prison, Sunday, some reports state it first attempted to use a rope and hook to destroy fencing around the prison's courtyard and only dropped a climbing rope or rope ladder when that effort failed. Vlastos, 43, reportedly was able to mount the rope but at some point during the escape attempt he was shot. The inmate ultimately fell from the rope at a height of approximately 15 feet. He is expected to recover. It is not yet clear if another prisoner who was also in the courtyard at the time was part of the escape plan. After the aircraft went down in the prison's parking lot, arrests were made. Similar events that took place in the last decade resulted in more productive results for another inmate. In 2006 and 2009, two criminals (the same two, each time) successfully escaped from a Greek prison via helicopter (also, each time). Both were recaptured after the first escape. Only one of the two men was found after the second escape. The other is still at large.

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