Two NC prison employees killed during escape attempt

Inmates start fire in sewing facility

Pasquotank Correctional Institution (N.C. Department of Public Safety)

Two employees at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City were killed and 10 employees and four inmates were injured on Thursday when prisoners set a fire in an failed attempt to escape, officials said.

Correction enterprises manager Veronica Darden, 50, and correctional officer Justin Smith, 35, died at high-security men’s prison, the state Department of Public Safety said in a statement.

“Those who work in our prisons do a difficult and demanding job that is critical to our safety,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement. “We’re grateful to these fallen prison employees for their service, and we offer our condolences to their families, friends, co-workers and community on this tragic loss.”

Inmates started a fire in the prison’s sewing plant and then tried to escape, the statement said.

Three prison employees were in critical condition at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and seven were treated and released from Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City. Four inmates were treated for injuries, the department said.

The fire was extinguished and the prison, in the northeast part of the state, was placed on lockdown, officials said. The state’s Prison Emergency Response Team, a tactical unit, rushed to the facility along with police.

The state’s department of public safety declared the situation under control less than two hours after sending out an alert on social media about the violence.

None of the inmates managed to escape, the department of public safety said in a statement.

“The DPS family is devastated by the tragic events that took place at Pasquotank Correctional Institution,” North Carolina Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks said in a statement.

Pasquotank had more than 700 inmates on Thursday, including people held in medium and minimum security conditions, according to DPS.