ELIZABETH CITY, NC Oct 13 2017 Two prison workers were killed and many hurt in an attempted prison escape from Pasquotank Correctional Institution Thursday.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety said Thursday that about 3 p.m., inmates started a fire in the prison’s specialty sewing plant, where about 30 inmates work for Correction Enterprises producing embroidered logo items, safety vests, and other sewn items.
After the fire was set, several inmates attempted to escape but were not successful.
Early Friday morning, officials identified the dead employees.
Correctional Officer Justin Smith, 35, provided security in the Correction Enterprises Specialty Sewing Plant. He had worked as a correctional officer since 2012.
Correction Enterprises Manager Veronica Darden, 50, supervised inmates working in the Specialty Sewing Plant. She had been a Correction Enterprises employee since 2007 and previously worked as a correctional officer.
Three other prison employees remain hospitalized in critical condition at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Seven prison employees were treated and released from Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City. Four inmates were treated for injuries.
“The DPS family is devastated by the tragic events that took place at Pasquotank Correctional Institution,” Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks said in a statement. “Our deepest sympathies go out to the families and co-workers of the employees who lost their lives in service to the State. We will do everything we can to support their families during this difficult time. I want to thank law enforcement and emergency responders for their assistance, and we will do everything we can to assist the investigation.”
Gov. Roy Cooper also reacted to the deadly events.
“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,” Cooper said.
Pasquotank Correctional Institution is a high-security prison for adult male inmates. It employs about 410 people and can house nearly 900 inmates according to the prison website. DPS said there were 725 inmates incarcerated at this time in close, medium and minimum security.
Minimum-security prisoners work outside the walls on road gangs for the county recycling department and performing other community labor.