Inmates on roadside cleanup stop traffic and call for help when supervisor collapses

Three inmates at the Bladen County Jail in southeastern North Carolina are being hailed as heroes after stopping traffic to get help for their roadside cleanup supervisor, the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook.

The inmates and their supervisor, James Smith, were working on Peanut Road in Elizabethtown on Wednesday when Smith “suffered a medical condition” that the sheriff’s office did not describe in Thursday’s post. According to the Bladen Journal, Smith had a stroke.

“Those inmates stood by with Mr. Smith and stopped traffic to get help for him,” according to the sheriff’s office post.

Smith is a retired detention officer who works part-time for the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office supervising inmates in the roadside cleanup program, the sheriff’s office told the Observer.

Smith “started feeling sick and passed out,” Chief Deputy Larry Guyton told station WECT. “The inmates — Roy William Smith, Rosendo Morales-Sanchez, and Franklin Edens Jr. — took Smith’s cell phone and called 911,” the station reported.

On Thursday, Smith was in the intensive care unit at Duke University Hospital in Durham, according to WECT.

In its post, the sheriff’s office said, “we would like for our citizens to please keep Mr. Smith in your prayers for a speedy recovery.

“We would also like to thank the three inmates for standing by with Mr. Smith when (there) were so many other options they could have taken.”

Social media praised the inmates, while sending out prayers for Smith.

“I believe they should get a plaque for staying with the officer (when) they could have ran but they didn’t,” Annette Broussard posted.

“Praying for healing!” posted Janet Miller. “There are good people everywhere, even those in jail that made some mistake in (the) past. God bless them.”

“How about knocking some time off the sentence?” RG Milar suggested. “Not sure what they are in for, but they have proven they are good humans.”

Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.