updated 9/4/2007 7:26:25 PM ET 2007-09-04T23:26:25

A state prisoner was badly burned early Tuesday when another inmate threw gasoline on him and set him aflame.

Robert Smith 42, was in his bunk in an open barracks when he was attacked around 4 a.m., Correction Department spokeswoman Dina Tyler said.

“He popped out of his bunk and took off running,” Tyler said. “Other inmates caught him and began to extinguish the flames.”

Tyler said that Smith was alert and talking after the attack, and that he was hospitalized for treatment of burns on his chest, arms and face. He told officials he didn’t see his attacker and didn’t know why he was targeted.

The Correction Department and state police are investigating but did not immediately identify a suspect, Tyler said.

“We will try to determine how gasoline got into the barracks and how (the attacker) got matches or a lighter,” Tyler said. Gasoline is sometimes brought behind the fence for mowing or running other maintenance machines.

Smith was serving a 60-year sentence for forgery, as well as first-degree sexual abuse and drug convictions.

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