ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. – Authorities early Friday identified two employees killed during an attempted inmate escape from a North Carolina prison.
In a news release, the state Department of Public Safety said Justin Smith, 35, and Veronica Darden, 50, were killed Thursday during the attempted breakout from Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City.
Smith was a correctional officer at the prison’s sewing plant, where Darden trained inmates making safety vests and other embroidered items, according to officials. Details of their deaths weren’t released.
Three other employees remained hospitalized, and four inmates were treated for injuries, officials said.
Smith and Darden were killed after inmates started a fire at the prison sewing plant in an attempt to escape, officials said Thursday. But prisons spokesman Keith Acree said officials did several counts after the fire and all 725 inmates were accounted for.
The prison near the northeast North Carolina coast houses nearly 900 adult, male felons in both high-security and minimum-custody buildings. Minimum-security prisoners work outside the walls on road gangs for the county recycling department and performing other community labor.
The prison has reported other incidents this year. In April, an argument between two inmates at the prison led to one prisoner stabbing the other several times in the upper torso. Two months earlier, a guard was charged with trying to smuggle illegal drugs, phones and cigarettes behind prison walls.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper offered his condolences for the deaths in a statement late Thursday.
“Those who work in our prisons do a difficult and demanding job that is critical to our safety,” he said.