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Originally published Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 7:27 PM

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6 boys tracked down after escape from Echo Glen detention center

Six teenage offenders are back in custody after allegedly knocking a staff member unconscious and escaping from the Echo Glen juvenile-detention facility in Snoqualmie.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Six teenage offenders serving time in a state juvenile-detention center in Snoqualmie were arrested Sunday morning after, authorities say, they planned a violent escape that left a staff member at the facility injured and police searching for them in the woods.

The escape was discovered about 11:30 p.m. Saturday when a female staff member at Echo Glen Children's Center was found unconscious in a locked room, said sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West.

Witnesses told investigators that she had been beaten with a chunk of ice frozen in a water bottle, West added.

After the assault, the alleged attackers, boys ages 14 and 15, took her keys and radio.

"She was unconscious and some other kids (at the facility) found her. They called for help," West said.

The escape appeared to be planned, she said. The boys were carrying packed bags when they were caught, and one had stuffed his bed to make it look like he was still there, authorities said.

The King County Sheriff's Office, the Washington State Patrol and Snoqualmie police were brought in to search for the escapees, West said. A Sheriff's Office helicopter crew used thermal-imaging equipment to comb the area near the facility, and located the six boys.

West said that when spotted from the air, the boys broke into three groups of two and ran in different directions. Deputies from the sheriff's K-9 unit used their dogs to find the boys in the woods.

They got about half a mile from Echo Glen before being captured about 3 a.m.

One of the boys was at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Sunday, being treated for dog bites to his arm. He is expected to join the other five at the King County Youth Service Center. The six will be held at the Seattle juvenile jail for investigation of second-degree assault, unlawful imprisonment and escape, West said.

Three of the offenders are 14, and the other three are 15. Most were at Echo Glen for assault and firearms convictions, West said.

The staff member suffered a concussion and bruises, according to David Griffith, director of institution programs at Juvenile Rehabilitation, a division of the state Department of Social and Health Services. She was recovering at home Sunday, he said.

All of the offenders should have been locked in their rooms by 11 p.m., but they somehow got out, Griffith said.

"It may have been a procedural error, or the youth hid out and she (the staff member) didn't know where they were," Griffith said. "It's very scary. ... We'll investigate what went wrong, absolutely," he added, noting that the agency will address procedural changes if necessary.

Echo Glen is a medium/maximum-security facility that is not fenced but is bordered by natural wetlands and dense woods. It includes 10 living units that house a total of 165 male and female felony offenders up to age 21.

The unarmed staff member was alone in one living unit, which is typical after lockdown, he said. She apparently wasn't able to push a panic button or call security for help, he said.

"We're not sure how it (the escape) was initiated. It might have been a single person, or a concerted effort," Griffith said. "The kids who assaulted the staff member opened the doors for all kids living in the unit, so there was a potential for the entire unit to escape."

However, seven of the inmates in the unit decided to stay, and went to the aid of the injured staff member.

The seven who helped will be honored in some way for their actions, Griffith said.

He said it had been at least a year since the last escape from the facility.

The center was in a short-term lockdown after the incident to determine if it was part of a broader escape plan, Griffith said. It was not.

Echo Glen is one of four institutions within the juvenile-rehabilitation division of the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Staff writer Lynda V. Mapes and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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