New York State Police say they are searching for two inmates, described as "dangerous," who escaped overnight from Clinton Correctional Facility, near the Vermont border.
Troopers say they received a call from the facility at 5:45 a.m. Saturday regarding two prisoners that were unaccounted for during a 5:30 a.m. bed check.
The prisoners have been identified as 48-year-old Richard Matt and 34-year-old David Sweat, both convicted murderers.
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo toured the route the inmates are believed to have taken before giving a news conference on the escape.
The governor calls the escape "extraordinary" and says it's the first time anyone has escaped from the maximum security portion of the facility since it opened in 1865.
Authorities say the pair apparently used power tools to drill their way through cells, a series of tunnels and, eventually, out a manhole cover.
According to authorities, the men left items in their cells to appear as though they were inside and asleep during routine checks.
Authorities are working to investigate how the men obtained the necessary tools to carry out such an elaborate plan.
Troopers describe Matt as six feet tall and 210 pounds with black hair and hazel eyes. They say he has tattoos on back "Mexico Forever," a heart on his chest and left shoulder, and a U.S. Marine Corps insignia on his right shoulder.
Sweat is described as 5'11 and 165 pounds with brown hair and green eyes. Police say he has tattoos on his left bicep and his right fingers.
Troopers stress both are considered to be dangerous and should not be approached if located.
State police say Matt is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for kidnapping a man and beating him to death in Niagara County. Sweat was convicted of first-degree murder of a sheriff's deputy in Broome County and is serving a sentence of life without parole, they said.
Police have set up numerous roadblocks in the greater Dannemora area as they search for the escapees. Vanessa Misciagna of necn affiliate WPTZ reports armed troopers are searching every vehicle on Route 374 at a police checkpoint, and dozens of troopers and corrections officers are searching the woods off Smith Street.
Anyone who sees people resembling the prisoners or with any information should call Vermont State Police at (802) 563-3761.