How Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Escaped From Prison

The notorious Sinaloa cartel head rode out of prison

El Chapos motorized escape from prison
El Chapo’s 125cc prison break accompliceAssociated Press

*Editor’s Note: Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was convicted on February 12, 2019, in Brooklyn, New York, of multiple counts related to drug-smuggling and murder. Below is the story of how he used a hybrid three-wheeled motorcycle to escape Mexican prison during the summer of 2015.

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera is currently on trial in New York, accused of an expansive list of crimes associated with his decades-long stint as the head of the Sinaloa cartel. His road to that Brooklyn courtroom was long and bloody, and included one of the world's most notorious escapes, one that would not have been possible without the help of a cannibalized 125cc motorcycle.

Photojournalist James Breeden was the first member of the media allowed access to the mile-long tunnel Guzmán used to escape the Altiplano prison. “It was a pretty strange-looking contraption,” Breeden says. “The back half of it looked like a regular motor bike, and then the front had some sort of welded axle that had two wheels that sat on a small track that ran the length of the tunnel.”

Guzmán’s associates used the bike-mine-cart hybrid to ferry 3,250 tons of earth and stone out of a tunnel 30 feet below the surface. Then, at 8:52 p.m. on July 11, 2015, Guzmán rode the machine to freedom. It didn’t last long. He was recaptured by Mexican authorities in January 2016.