Officials: No escapes from Pasquotank prison; 3 employees still in hospital

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY/AP) — Two prison employees died and several others were injured following a fire and attempted prison break Thursday afternoon at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety has identified the two victims as Justin Smith, a 35-year-old correctional officer and Veronica Darden, a 50-year-old correction enterprises manager.

Officials said inmates started a fire around 3 p.m. at the prison’s specialty sewing plant, where about 30 inmates work. The fires were extinguished by 5 p.m.

After the fire was started, several inmates tried to escape the prison. In a news conference Friday, officials said there was no evidence any inmates left the prison yard.

Fourteen patients were taken to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, three of whom were taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Sentara Healthcare officials said 10 of the 14 transported were employees, while the other four were inmates.

Officials said seven employees and four inmates injured in the incident were released from Sentara Albemarle. Three other employees — two correctional officers and one mechanic — who were seriously injured remained at Sentara Norfolk.

Governor Roy Cooper is ordering extra safety measures.Cooper on Friday suspended the inmate work program at Pasquotank Correctional Institution.

Cooper also ordered increased officers in areas where inmates work and a safety review of all inmate work programs.

Deputy state prisons director Annie Harvey says the four inmates suspected in the escape plot were treated for injuries Thursday and transferred to a high-security prison near Raleigh. She says criminal charges are pending.


ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — Officials said 14 people were injured during an attempted prison break at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution Thursday afternoon, officials confirm.

Officials with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety said in a tweet there was an attempted escape and fires set at the prison.

Jerry Higgins, spokesman with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, said several inmates tried to escape from the prison, and employees were injured.

Several fires were set in the institution’s sewing plan, but Higgins says the fires have since been extinguished. The prison has been placed on lockdown.

Sentara Healthcare says nine patients have been received at Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, two of which are being transferred to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Sentara Norfolk is also expecting five additional patients. Family and friends of patients are being asked to avoid the hospital.

Three nearby schools were placed on lockdown. The lockdowns have since been lifted. Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools sent out the following message Thursday afternoon:

Due to an incident that is taking place at the local jail north of town, Northside Elementary, Elizabeth City Middle School and Pasquotank County High School have been placed on lock down at the advice of Emergency Management.

Students who are bus riders who have not arrived home as of yet, will be returned to the school until we hear further from Emergency Management. Students and staff currently at these schools will not be released until we hear further from Emergency Management.

A follow up notification will be issued to update parents as to the lock down situation at our schools.

The school system said on Facebook — at the time of the lockdowns — that students on buses who had not made it home were taken back to the schools because of the potential of inmates being in the area.

Elizabeth City fire crews and EMS responded to the prison.

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