Two prison employees were killed and 14 other people injured on Thursday when inmates at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution in North Carolina tried to escape, officials said.
The escape attempt began around 3:30 p.m., the North Carolina Department of Public Safety said, when inmates set fire to the prison’s sewing plant.
It was unclear Thursday evening whether the deaths and injuries were from the fire or from other causes, but emergency workers reported over a police scanner that at least one officer had been “struck multiple times with a hammer,” according to The Charlotte Observer.
The Department of Public Safety said the two employees who were killed were Justin Smith, 35, a guard in the prison’s sewing plant; and Veronica Darden, 50, who supervised inmates working in the plant.
“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,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement late Thursday.
Three prison employees remained hospitalized in critical condition early Friday, and seven others were treated and released, the Department of Public Safety said in a news release. Four inmates were treated for injuries.
W. David Guice, the state’s chief deputy secretary of public safety, said in a statement that his department would “work closely with investigators to learn the circumstances of today’s incident and bring to justice those responsible.”
The prison, which had 729 inmates on Thursday, was locked down, as were nearby schools. At 5:18, the Department of Public Safety announced on Twitter that the situation was under control, and officials said later that no one had succeeded in escaping. “Three counts conducted have confirmed no missing inmates,” the department said on Twitter.
Information on how many inmates were involved in the escape attempt was not available Thursday evening, and it was unclear whether any had been charged.
The Department of Public Safety and the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to requests for information about the episode. The Elizabeth City Police Department and a spokesman for the prison declined to comment.
“It was chaos here,” Sheriff Randy Cartwright told The Virginian-Pilot. “We’re just getting things under control.”