06/20/2015 04:57 pm ET Updated Jun 23, 2015

Escaped Inmates Seen Near Pennsylvania Border, New York State Police Say

The two convicted killers who escaped from a New York prison more than two weeks ago may have been seen Saturday in Friendship, New York, near the Pennsylvania border -- more than 350 miles from where they started.

Officers from New York State Police, U.S. Marshals, the Allegany County Sheriff's Department, and other agencies descended on the area after a possible sighting of David Sweat and Richard Matt. Helicopters circled the sky as law enforcement restricted traffic and scoured areas near the sighting.

"We consider it to be a significant sighting," New York State Police spokesman William Duffy told the New York Times.

Residents of the small town said that they had been put on lockdown as law enforcement combed the area after a civilian spotted two men, one fitting a description of Sweat.

The New York Times, citing a law enforcement official, reported that a woman saw two men walking out of a wooded area. One of the men then dove back into the woods, and the other pulled his hooded sweatshirt over his head.

CNN reported that investigators found tracks after a phoned-in tip, and are trying to determine whether they belong to the escapees.

Special operations, aviation and canine teams were activated to investigate the reported sighting. A statement from law enforcement stressed that it was an unconfirmed sighting at the time, but asked people in the area to be on alert and call 911 if they saw the men, saying they should be considered very dangerous.

Photos showing police activity around Friendship appeared on social media.

Jim Dieter, the manager of Miller & Brandes grocery store, told HuffPost that people had been instructed to stay indoors. "People can’t leave, they have to stay where they’re at," he told the Times. "All the businesses closed for the day."

Earlier Saturday, New York State Police reported a possible sighting of the fugitives about 70 miles east at a construction site in Erwin, New York. A week before, men matching the descriptions of the convicted murderers were spotted in Steuben County of New York heading towards Pennsylvania.

Matt and Sweat escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility on June 6, by cutting through walls and pipes and leaving dummies in their cells as decoys.

They were allegedly provided with tools for the escape by Joyce Mitchell, who ran the prison’s tailor shop. Authorities have said Mitchell talked to Matt and Sweat about killing her husband. She’s been arrested and charged with promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation.

Sweat was serving a life sentence for killing a Broome County sheriff's deputy in 2002. Matt was serving 25 years to life for kidnapping and beating a man to death in 1997.



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