2 prison workers killed, 3 at hospital 'critical'


By William F. West
Staff Writer

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The two prison employees killed in an attempted escape from Pasquotank Correctional Institution on Thursday were a corrections officer and an employee of Corrections Enterprises, the prison industry that operates a sewing plant at the prison, a N.C. Public Safety spokeswoman said.

Pamela Walker said Thursday night that Public Safety is not releasing the two employees’ names at this time. The agency is still in the process of notifying their next of kin, she said.

Three other prison employees injured in the incident are in critical condition at a hospital, Walker said.

Walker did not name the hospital but a Sentara Healthcare spokesman said Thursday evening that three patients admitted to Sentara Albemarle Medical Center as a result of the prison incident were transferred to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk.

Walker said several other prison workers were injured in the incident, which involved a fire set by inmates in the prison’s specialty sewing plant. She also said several inmates were hurt in the incident, but their injuries are not considered life-threatening.

The Sentara Healthcare spokesman said a total of 10 patients were admitted to Sentara Albemarle following the prison incident.

Walker said several inmates set the fire in the prison’s sewing plant about 3 p.m. The plant, which employs about 30 inmates, produces embroidered logo items, safety vests and other items.

The fire was extinguished, but after the fire was set, several inmates attempted to escape, Walker said. The escape attempt was not successful, she said.

Walker said no inmates escaped during the incident.

"All inmates are accounted for," she said, adding, “We've done multiple counts."

The prison currently houses 725 male inmates in close, medium and minimum custody.

Walker said the prison remains on lockdown as the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation begin a probe of Thursday’s incident. Public Safety officials don’t know how long the prison will remain on lockdown, she said.

Members of the prison emergency response team have arrived from other state prison facilities and are assisting the staff at Pasquotank Correctional Institution, Walker said.

Asked if there’s any indication yet whether Thursday’s incident was planned, Walker said, "At this time, we don't know."

No inmates have yet been charged in the incident, but Walker anticipates charges are possible following the investigation.

Top state prison officials have released statements about Thursday’s events at the Pasquotank prison.

“The DPS family is devastated by the tragic events that took place at Pasquotank Correctional Institution,” Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks said. “Our deepest sympathies go out to the families and co-workers of the employees who lost their lives in service to the state. We will do everything we can to support their families during this difficult time. I want to thank law enforcement and emergency responders for their assistance, and we will do everything we can to assist the investigation.”

Chief Deputy Secretary W. David Guice also released a statement.

“Our hearts are broken by this tragedy that took members of our Correction family,” he said. “Words cannot express our deep sorrow. We will work closely with investigators to learn the circumstances of today’s incident and bring to justice those responsible.”

The last corrections officer killed in the line of duty was Sgt. Meggan Callahan, who was killed by an inmate at Bertie Correctional Institution in late April.

Asked about posts on social media after the incident that claimed inmates had escaped from the prison, Walker called them “distressing.”

“It's distressing rumors get ramped up like that and people report things that are not officially true,” she said.