A fire in a power plant Friday killed three workers who apparently were overcome by fumes after they failed to break thick, wire-reinforced windows to escape, a fire department spokesman said.
Their bodies were discovered by firefighters after the smoky fire at the O'Brian Newark-Cogeneration Plant was brought under control about 10:30 a.m., said spokesman Larry Krieger.
Firefighters had to break metal doors to enter the locked plant, Krieger said.
The three workers, apparently the only people in the plant, tried to break windows that firefighters needed sledgehammers to open, Krieger said.
"They obviously tried breaking them with chairs, and you can see the pockmarks on the glass," he said. "They left that room, which was the kitchen room, and then they went down."
The door to the kitchen locked behind them, leaving them in the smoky hall, where they died apparently from inhaling gases and soot, he said. Autopsies will be conducted to determine the cause of death. The bodies were not burned, Krieger said.
"There are exits off of that area, where the control room is, but why they couldn't get out, I can't say," Krieger said. "There's no direct exit that you could just open a door and get outside." He said the plant had been operating for a little more than two years and had proper permits.
David Giordano, vice president of the Newark Firemen's Union, said that firefighters could have arrived at least five minutes earlier if the nearest station had not been closed during that shift as part of a rotation of cost-cutting closures.
Fuel oil, which is burned by the plant to produce energy, is suspected in the fire because of the heavy soot, he said, but no cause was immediately determined.