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Helicopter Pilot Forced to Aid Escape of Brazilian Bandit

January 3, 1986

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ A helicopter pilot said Thursday he was forced by a gunman to fly one of Brazil’s most notorious bandits and drug-dealers out of a top-security island prison on New Year’s Eve.

In an interview with Globo, the country’s largest television network, Marcos Gonzales Maia said the man rented the copter, then pulled a gun on him and threatened, ″If you open your mouth I’ll kill you.″

Police said the gunman ordered Maia to change course and fly to the Candido Mendes prison on an island 100 miles south of Rio de Janeiro to free Jose Carlos Dos Reis, popularly known as Escadinha, who was serving a 30-year term for drug dealing and armed robbery.

The copter landed near Escadinha’s quarters, where he and a woman were waiting, and flew them to the town of Iitaguai, 44 miles southwest of Rio, according to police.

Police located Maia from a description of the helicopter, which police traced to a firm near Rio.

A similar incident occurred last month in the United States. A woman from Wellford, S.C., is accused of hijacking a helicopter on Dec. 19 and forcing the pilot at gunpoint to go to Perry Correctional Institute in Pelzer, S.C. She allegedly forced the pilot to land in the prison yard, where three prison inmates got on board.

They were captured in Georgia four days later at a rest area near the Florida border.

Police have not yet found Escadinha, whose escape was described by Vivaldo Barbosa, justice secretary for the state of Rio de Janeiro, as ″extremely well-planned″ and requiring ″many people and large sums of money.″

Escadinha is regarded as a modern day Robin Hood in Moro do Juramento, the slum on the northern outskirts of Rio where he has long operated an extensive drug ring. He has financed the building of schools, the distribution of free food and the lending of money to hundreds of people in the impoverished area. He was twice escaped from prison before.