Two employees killed, several injured during attempted prison escape in Elizabeth City
Posted 5:09 p.m. Thursday
Updated 8:03 a.m. Friday
Elizabeth City, N.C. — Two prison employees were killed and several others were injured in an attempted escape at an Elizabeth City jail Thursday afternoon.
Authorities said that a fire was set in a Correction Enterprises sewing plant and several employees were injured at the Pasquotank Correctional Institute at about 3:30 p.m.
Officials identified the two employees who were killed as correctional officer Justin Smith, 35, and correction enterprises manager Veronica Darden, 50. Smith had worked at the prison since 2012, and Darden had been there since 2007.
Three other prison employees were hospitalized in critical condition, and seven employees were treated at local hospitals and released. Four inmates were also treated for injures.
The fire had been extinguished by about 5 p.m., according to the Department of Public Safety.
Authorities said the facility was under lockdown, but the situation was under control by about 5:20 p.m. Members of the Department of Public Safety Prison Emergency Response Team responded to the prison to assist with the situation.
The prison was under control and locked down, with all inmates accounted for in multiple head counts.
The Department of Public Safety said Pasquotank Correctional Institute houses 725 male inmates in close, medium and minimum custody.
"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," Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement.
The Pasquotank County Sheriff's Department, along with the State Bureau of Investigation, are investigating the incident.
"The DPS family is devastated by the tragic events that took place at Pasquotank Correctional Institution. Our deepest sympathies go out to the families and co-workers of the employees who lost their lives in service to the State," Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks said in a statement.