- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 26, 2015

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - A longtime officer from South Mississippi Correctional Institution was killed in a traffic accident Monday while helping escort an inmate from one hospital to another, the state Department of Corrections said Tuesday.

Sgt. Iris Smith, 53, died when the prison van she was driving hit the back of an 18-wheeler on U.S. 49 in Hattiesburg, the department said in a news release.

Smith was alone in the van. Another correctional officer was riding in an ambulance with an inmate who was being taken from Greene County Hospital to Forrest General Hospital.

The department said Smith was its first correctional officer killed on the job since 1999.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Sgt. Smith’s family,” Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher said in the news release. “Her unexpected death shows how fragile life is. It’s the kind of news we all dread hearing. She was driving from one destination to another as a certified peace officer to provide the secure custody and control of an inmate when her life was cut short.”

Hattiesburg police were continuing to investigate the accident, and funeral plans were pending.

Smith was hired by the Department of corrections since October 2000. Before going to work at South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Greene County, she had worked at George County Community Work Center.

Gov. Phil Bryant said in the MDOC news release he and his wife, Deborah, were praying for Smith’s family.

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