At least two prison employees were killed, and up to 10 other people injured, when inmates at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution in North Carolina tried to escape on Thursday, 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.
“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.
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.
Sentara Healthcare, which operates several hospitals in North Carolina and Virginia, said it had received 10 patients from the prison. (It was unclear whether the two employees who died were included in that number.) Seven patients were at Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, located near the prison in Elizabeth City, N.C., and three had been transferred to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, across the Virginia border.
Peter J. Sengenberger, a spokesman for Sentara, said information on the victims’ conditions would not be released until Friday.
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.”