ST. LOUIS -- Firefighters Derek Martin and Rob Morrison charged into the flaming, smoke-belching building looking for a colleague who had become disoriented.
The firefighter missing in Friday night's four-alarm blaze turned up alive. But Martin and Morrison -- 38-year-old married fathers each with 11 years on the department -- didn't make it.
On Saturday, the city went about mourning the deaths of Martin and Morrison, the first St. Louis firefighters to die in the line of duty in a quarter-century.
"This is a real tragedy," fire chief Sherman George said Saturday, his voice cracking. "Being the chief is like being a father to each of these individuals, and you suffer a great loss."
Two other firefighters were treated and released after suffering smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion at the fire, which broke out about 9:30 p.m. at Gravois Refrigeration Co., a two-story brick building located a couple miles south of downtown.
Martin and Morrison, both assigned to Rescue Squad 1, were fatally injured after going into the building in search of a firefighter who turned up missing in the fast-developing flames and smoke, George said.
"Somehow they got lost in the building," he said.
By the time they were found, neither had a heartbeat. They died later at St. Louis University Hospital, Morrison after emergency workers briefly managed to get his heart restarted, fire officials said.
Firefighters also had to use a ladder truck to rescue a trapped firefighter, whose uniform was still smoking when he was brought to the ground and rushed by ambulance to a hospital.