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6 inmates escape Tennessee jail by removing toilet, climbing through hole in wall

COCKE COUNTY, Tenn. — A manhunt is underway in eastern Tennessee after six inmates escaped from a jail by ripping a toilet from a concrete wall and climbing out of a hole behind it to freedom.

Five of the inmates had been recaptured but one remained on the loose Tuesday, according to Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes.

The escape occurred on Christmas morning at the Cocke County Jail Annex in Newport, east of Knoxville and not far from the Virginia border.

The county sheriff’s office told CNN affiliate WATE that the inmates escaped after a water leak occurred behind a stainless steel toilet attached to a wall. The bolts holding the unit in place had rusted out, and prior plumbing repairs had weakened the concrete. The inmates vandalized the toilet, yanked it from the wall and gained access to a hole which led outside of the facility.

“They were able to kick out some concrete that was easily broken along with some plumbing,” Fontes told WATE.

“We’ve had multiple issues with this facility concerning water breaks, sewage breaks, deterioration of the facility,” he said.

Fontes said the escapees managed to put the toilet back in place well enough that “you couldn’t tell that much had happened.” They then climbed over a jail fence and fled, he said.

Four inmates were captured Sunday night, and another turned himself into authorities.

The search continues for inmate David Wayne Frazier, 54, who was awaiting trial for aggravated robbery and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Frazier is considered dangerous, WATE reported.

The Cocke County Jail was originally a hospital, but the building has served as a lockup for the past 20 years.