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Search for escaped prisoners heats up after possible sighting

The manhunt for two killers who escaped a northern New York state prison more than two weeks ago focused on an area along the Pennsylvania border Sunday after a local resident told authorities he might have seen the men. Investigators said a witness spotted two men who matched the description of escapees David Sweat and Richard Matt on Saturday. Troopers said it was a credible, though unconfirmed, sighting more than 350 miles from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., the two men escaped from. Troopers themselves have not seen the fugitives.

The two men escaped from the maximum-security prison, near the Canadian border, on June 6. Police said the two used power tools to drill through a wall. They worked their way to a tunnel that led to a manhole about a block from the prison. Early Sunday morning, caravans holding New York state corrections officers arrived to help continue the search throughout Allegany County, near the Pennsylvania border. Officers from Elmira, Attica, Gowanda and Collins correctional facilities were all contributing to the search.

All traffic is being stopped along I-86 and local roads as police conduct vehicle searches. Friendship, N.Y., was essentially sealed off while officers search the area, WGRZ -TV reported, with a police helicopter in the sky. Sweat was serving life without parole after his conviction for the murder of Broome County Sheriff Deputy Kevin Tarsia. Matt was serving 25 years to life after his conviction of murder, kidnapping and robbery. He kidnapped, tortured and killed his former boss, and then dismembered his body.

A pair of possible sightings June 13 in Erwin, N.Y., and June 14 in Lindley, N.Y., flagged state troopers and Steuben County Sheriff officers to search a construction site on Rita’s Way near a Gang Mills rail yard in Erwin. An “extensive number of officers” were brought to the area after the two tips. Investigators conducted a search Saturday before noon while a state trooper was stationed at the entryway of Rita’s Way, asking whether anyone had seen anything.