COAL TOWNSHIP — Multiple charges are pending against a corrections officer at Northumberland County Jail following an investigation into possible drug violations at the prison.

The officer, who was not identified by Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Matulewicz or Warden Bruce Kovach, fled the prison after a certified drug K-9 officer uncovered an unidentified substance in a locker and detected an “alert” outside a vehicle Monday morning. Authorities said the locker and vehicle belonged to the same officer.

The search at the prison commenced after Kovach contacted the district attorney’s office with evidence suggesting inmates may be using illegal drugs in the jail, according to a news release.

Matulewicz then directed Northumberland County Detective Degg Stark to investigate the matter, with assistance from Deputy Sheriff Todd Owens, who serves as a field supervisor for the Northumberland-Montour Drug Task Force. Owens contacted Watsontown Officer Tim Kiefaber, a certified drug K-9 officer and a member of the task force.

At 10:40 a.m. Monday, Stark, Kiefaber and his drug-detecting dog conducted a search of the jail, including an area of staff lockers and the parking lot. At one corrections officer’s locker, authorities seized an unknown substance that will undergo drug testing.

After searching a large area of the jail, Kovach directed the K-9 handler to conduct an exterior search of vehicles owned by prison staff. The K-9 signaled an “alert” on a vehicle belonging to the same corrections officer whose locker was found to contain an unknown substance earlier in the day.

The corrections officer, apparently realizing the focus of the police investigation, gained access to the vehicle in question and proceeded to leave the scene.

Stark told Deputy Warden Jim Smink to stop the vehicle, based on the “alerts” signaled by the drug dog, and Smink stepped in front of the car. However, the driver accelerated rapidly, spinning the tires and forcing Smink to take evasive action to avoid being struck by the vehicle.

Kiefaber gave chase but was unable to locate the corrections officer or the vehicle.

The officer remained at large Monday night.

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