WEATHERFORD, Okla. — Eight inmates being transported by a private prison company escaped in their transport van in western Oklahoma on Tuesday when their guards stopped to take at least one inmate into a hospital and left the keys in the vehicle, police said.
Two prisoners, Lester Burns and Michael Coleman, were at large following the Tuesday afternoon escape at Weatherford. Six were rounded up shortly after police put out a call asking for help. A shotgun aboard the van was also recovered.
The inmates were from jails in the western and northern United States and were being transported among agencies in the same regions of the country.
One or two fell ill near Weatherford, which is about an hour west of Oklahoma City on Interstate 40, Weatherford Police Chief Byron Cox said. His assistant, Louis Flowers, said the inmates had been left in a locked compartment inside the van.
"Two of the prisoners kicked the partition out and were able to gain access to the front of the van. ... The keys were still in the van as far as we know, and it was still running," Flowers said.
Cox said the inmates stopped a mile down the road and two ran away. Dogs and helicopters were summoned to aid in the search.
"We're going door-to-door and searching every residence that we can," Flowers said.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman Betsy Randolph said officers recovered a 12-gauge shotgun that had been inside the vehicle. No injuries were reported.