A helicopter prison escape by four inmates was foiled by prison guards. On Sunday, a chartered helicopter with two armed passengers descended on Greek’s Trikala prison courtyard, lowering a rope, and getting ready to help a convicted killer and three others to escape. “The dramatic escape attempt was one of a handful involving helicopters in Greece, and the first time such plans have failed,” according to an ABC News report on Feb. 25, 2013.
“Prison officials told TV stations Mega and NET that they recovered well over 500 bullets fired from the helicopter. The Ministry of Justice, in statements describing the escape attempt, added that the helicopter passengers also carried, but did not use, ‘improvised explosive devices’."
Trikala is located 328 km (205 miles) northwest of Athens. Unlike prisons in the United States, the Trikala prison is in the central part of the city because it is an old Turkish building consisting of four-foot thick walls. The Trikala prison holds about 150 inmates, with about one-fourth of them being foreigners, including Albanians.
Sunday’s helicopter prison escape shortly before 5 p.m. was intended to free Panagiotis Vlastos, a convicted murderer and racketeer serving a life term, and at least three other prisoners, all Albanian nationals. The Belfast Telegraph reported that so far authorities have only released the name of Panagiotis Vlastos as one of the four Albanian prisoners involved in the foiled helicopter prison escape. Vlastos, who is considered one of the most dangerous criminals in Greece, is responsible for the kidnapping of ship-owner tycoon Periklis Panagopoulos.
The helicopter used for the prison escape was hired from a western Athens suburb and was scheduled to fly to Thessaloniki, in northern Greece. Instead of going to Thessaloniki, however, the helicopter flew to Trikala prison.
Besides the pilot and a technician, the helicopter carried two armed passengers. Authorities are still investigating whether the pilot and the technician were part of the escape team or whether they were forced to participate in the helicopter escape.
Upon arriving at the Trikala prison, the helicopter tried first to use a rope with a hook to rip off the chicken-wire fence that surrounded the prison. When the attempt to make a path for the prisoners to escape failed, the helicopter descended the rope into the prison courtyard to carry away 43-year-old Panagiotis Vlastos.
While someone from the helicopter fired AK-47 assault rifles on the prison guards, Panagiotis Vlastos managed to climb up the rope into the helicopter. Prison guards who returned the helicopter’s assault rifle fire were able to foil the escape by shooting Vlastos and forcing the helicopter to land in the prison’s parking lot. All four helicopter occupants were arrested.
During the fire exchange between the helicopter and the prison guards, Vlastos was shot in the legs and fell down from a height of 3 meters (10 feet). One of the helicopter’s passengers who is believed to be a technician, was shot in the hand.
One of the prison guards who had fired at the helicopter from inside his post was slightly injured by shards of flying glass.
Sunday’s foiled helicopter prison escape was Panagiotis Vlastos’ fourth unsuccessful prison escape attempt. Since his injuries were not severe enough to warrant a transfer, Vlastos is spending time recuperating in Trikala’s prison hospital and, most likely, thinking about his next escape plan.