ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — At least two people died and several others were injured following a fire and attempted prison break Thursday afternoon at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution, officials confirmed.
Officials with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety said the two people who died were employees of the prison.
Officials said inmates started a fire around 3 p.m. at the prison’s specialty sewing plant, where about 30 inmates work. After the fire was started, several inmates tried unsuccessfully to escape.
The fires have since been extinguished. The prison was placed on lockdown.
Several people were taken to hospitals following the incident. Sentara Healthcare initially said 14 patients were received between two hospitals, but later issued a correction stating that there were 10 patients.
Three of the 10 patients were transferred from Sentara Albemarle Medical Center to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Seven remained at Sentara Albemarle. It is unclear if the workers who died were among the 10 people taken to the hospital.
Sentara officials issued the following statement Thursday night:
We will issue no additional updates on an individual patient condition until tomorrow.
Family and friends coming to either SAMC or SNGH campus should bring government issued identification and the patient’s full name.
Three nearby schools were placed on lockdown — Northside Elementary School, Elizabeth City Middle School and Pasquotank County High School. The lockdowns have since been lifted.
All afternoon activities at the schools were cancelled.
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 for inmates being in the area.
Elizabeth City fire crews and EMS responded to the prison, along with local police officers and sheriff’s office deputies.
A spokesperson with the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed a helo crew from Elizabeth City was assisting North Carolina officials with the response to the incident.
According to NCDPS.gov, the prison consists four buildings, in addition to inmate housing. This includes a visiting area, recreation area, dining hall, warehouse, vocational and academic classrooms, medical and mental health offices, and administrative offices.