A manhunt was underway Sunday for two convicted murderers who cut through the wall of their cell with power tools to escape from the largest maximum-security correctional facility in New York state, authorities said.
The two inmates were reported missing from the Clinton Correctional Facility, about 25 miles from the Canadian Border, following a 5:30 a.m. bed check, New York State Police said in a statement.
The U.S. Marshals Service and FBI joined hundreds of other officers searching for Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, according to The Associated Press. Both men are considered to be a danger to the public and should not be approached, state police said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a news conference that the inmates used power tools to cut a hole in the steel backing of their cell, then crawled through a maze of tunnels and escaped through a manhole.
A post-it note with a smiley face and the words "have a nice day" was left on a pipe the inmates cut open, according to Cuomo.
“There’s no doubt that it was an extraordinary act,” Cuomo said, adding that there hadn’t been an escape from the maximum security portion of the prison since it opened in 1865.
He said prison officials had accounted for all of their tools and didn’t know how or where the inmates had gotten hold of the equipment, adding that security guards told him the inmates had also set up objects in their beds to make it look like people were sleeping in them.
Sweat was convicted of first-degree murder for killing sheriff's deputy Kevin Tarsia in 2002 and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Matt was convicted of murder, kidnapping and robbery after beating a man to death in 1997. He is serving a sentence of 25 years to life.
Phillip Tarsia, the father of Sweat's victim, said the sheriff's office notified his family that the killer had escaped.
While he said his first reaction to the escape was "it's not good," Tarsia remained optimistic Sweat would be back behind bars.
"Fate will take care of it," he said.
The victim's sister-in-law posted a picture of Tarsia on Facebook Saturday afternoon and wrote: "Praying that the Scumbag that killed him is put back where he belongs."
Sweat is described as white, 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds with tattoos on his bicep and fingers. Matt is 6 feet, 210 pounds with a "Mexico Forever" tattoo on his back, a heart tattoo on his chest and left shoulder, and a Marine Corps insignia on his right shoulder, state police said.
Cuomo asked the public to inform police of any sightings of the inmates. “They are dangerous,” Cuomo warned. “These are not people to be trifled with.”