By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Seven inmates were killed and 17 others required medical attention during more than seven hours of fighting and rioting at a South Carolina prison Sunday night, The State newspaper of Columbia reported.
Bodies were "literally stacked on top of each other," an inmate told The Associated Press on Monday. “I just saw three dead on the sidewalk outside of my unit. One guy is still alive and breathing, but just barely,” the inmate said.
Most Deaths in a South Carolina Prison in Recent Years
The seven deaths at Lee Correctional Institution are the most in any South Carolina prison in recent years, AP said.
At least six emergency agencies including Lee County Fire and Rescue responded to what was called a "mass casualty incident” involving multiple inmate-on-inmate altercations in three housing units at the facility, the South Carolina Department of Corrections announced on Monday morning.
The Lee Correctional Institution was secured at 2:25 A.M. Monday. But EMS personnel didn't clear the prison until about 5 A.M., South Carolina Law Enforcement spokesman Thom DuBose said.
Many of the prisoners died from stabbing or slashing wounds from "shanks," [home-made knives] Lee County Coroner Larry Logan announced. But the official cause of death will not be determined until after the autopsies are completed.
Officials Are Working to Notify the Families of the Deceased
As of about 9 A.M. Monday, all of the deceased but one had been identified. Officials are working to notify families before releasing their names. Coroner's offices from across the state have offered to assist on the numerous autopsies, Logan said.
The injured inmates were taken to two hospitals in Florence, a hospital in Hartsville and the Palmetto Health-Tuomey in Sumter, Lee County EMS Director Tim DuBose told The State. A mass casualty bus from Lexington County took some of the wounded to Palmetto Health Richland.
“We are also continuing to work with Department of Corrections on the investigation into what began this incident and the subsequent fights that broke out,” said South Carolina Law Enforcement spokesman Thom Berry.
The maximum-security facility in Bishopville, about 55 miles from Columbia, holds about 1,600 inmates. They are some of South Carolina's most violent, longest-serving offenders.
In recent years, there have been several large insurrections, including one in which an inmate overpowered a guard and used his keys to free others from their cells, The State reported.