Drone likely aided South Carolina prisoner's escape: officials
Drone in sky (Shutterstock)

An inmate used wirecutters and a cell phone likely delivered by a drone to escape from a South Carolina maximum security prison this week before being captured in Texas on Friday with guns and more than $47,000 in cash, authorities said.

Jimmy Causey, 46, escaped from the Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville on Tuesday. He appeared to have coordinated the breakout using the smuggled cell phone and then used the tools to cut through fences, state Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said.

Causey, who is serving a life sentence for kidnapping, armed robbery and other charges, also left a makeshift dummy in his bed to deceive prison guards.

"We believe that a drone was used to fly in the tools that allowed him to escape," Stirling said at a news conference.

Texas Rangers captured the inmate at an Austin, Texas, motel early on Friday. He had a handgun, a shotgun, ammunition, four cell phones and more than $47,000 in cash, state Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said.

It was Causey's second prison escape. In 2005, he and a fellow inmate escaped from another prison and were captured days later, Columbia television station WIS reported.

Deliveries of contraband to prisons by drones have become increasingly common as the unmanned aircraft grow more popular.

A Maryland inmate was convicted in 2016 of trying to smuggle drugs into a prison using an unmanned aircraft. In 2015, a drone dropped illicit drugs and tobacco into an Ohio prison's exercise yard, sparking a fight.

In Britain, police recovered two drones carrying cell phones and drugs near a London prison last year and have set up a special unit - Operation Airborne - to catch offenders trying to fly contraband into jail.

Stirling said he and prison officials from around the United States have repeatedly asked federal authorities to allow state agencies to block cell phone transmissions from prisons.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Grant McCool)