Police searched on foot with dogs and from the air with helicopters overnight Saturday for three convicted murderers who escaped from an Arizona prison.

The men are believed to have fled late Friday from a state prison.

Authorities suspect the fugitives kidnapped two lorry drivers at a rest stop and forced them at gunpoint to drive across the state. The drivers were later released unharmed and alerted police.

The three inmates escaped from a medium-security, privately run prison in Kingman. They are believed to have cut a hole through a fence, an Arizona Department of Corrections official said.

Police suspected that the escapees were helped by a 44-year-old woman who was described as accompanying them when the truck drivers were abducted.

The Phoenix-based Arizona Republic newspaper identified the inmates as John McCluskey, 45, who had just started serving a 15-year sentence this month for convictions of second-degree murder and weapons charges; Daniel Renwick 36, serving two 22-year sentences for two counts of second-degree murder; and Tracy Province, 42, in prison since 1993 on a life sentence for murder and robbery.

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