(ELIZABETH CITY, N.C.) — Two prison employees were killed and 10 others hospitalized with injuries after an attempted prison break in North Carolina, officials said.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety on Thursday night identified the fatalities as correctional officer Justin Smith, 35, who provided security in the Correction Enterprises Specialty Sewing Plant. He had worked as a correctional officer since 2012. The other fatality was correction enterprises manager Veronica Darden, 50, who supervised inmates working in the Specialty Sewing Plant. She had been a correction enterprises employee since 2007 and previously worked as a correctional officer.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement, “Those who work in our prisons do a difficult and demanding job that is critical to our safety. We’re grateful to these fallen prison employees for their service, and we offer our condolences to their families, friends, coworkers and community on this tragic loss.”
The incident occurred Thursday afternoon at the Pasquotank Correctional Institute in Elizabeth City, a dispatcher at the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office told ABC News.
Around 3:30 p.m., an inmate set a fire in the sewing plant, which injured several employees, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.
Attempted escape at Pasquotank CI in Elizabeth City. Fires set in prison sewing plant. Several employees injured. More info when available.
— NC Public Safety (@NCPublicSafety) October 12, 2017
“Our hearts are broken by this tragedy that took members of our Correction family,” said W. David Guice, chief deputy secretary of the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice. “Words cannot express our deep sorrow. We will work closely with investigators to learn the circumstances of today’s incident and bring to justice those responsible.”
The prison currently houses 729 inmates, according to the department of public safety. Correction Enterprises, which works within the safety department, operates a sewing plant on site.
Three of the ten patients sent to the Sentara Albemarle Medical Center were transferred to the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Virginia, said Sentara Healthcare spokesperson Peter J. Sengenberger in a statement. Sengenberger reported in a previous statement that nine people had been taken to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, and two of those were transferred to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Five more people were expected, according to the earlier statement.
The health care system asked the families of patients bring government-issued identification and the patient’s full name with them to the hospital. The injuries to some of those involved are serious, according to Keith Acree, North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesperson. He added that to his knowledge, no one escaped from the prison.
The conditions of the patients were not released.
Three local public schools were placed on lockdown following the incident. Students on school buses who had not already arrived home were brought back to the schools due to the potential of inmates being in the area, Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools said on Facebook. The lockdown has since been lifted.
The situation is under control, the department of public safety said. Further details were not immediately available.
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