Father on St. Paul fire that claimed daughter's life: 'I just feel so guilty'

Peter Yang says he so wishes he could switch places with his little girl.

Peter's daughter, Ntshialiag Yang, had just celebrated her 4th birthday on January 31. She died days later after she suffered serious smoke inhalation during a house fire at 595 Jessamine Avenue E. in St. Paul.

BACKSTORY -- 4-year-old girl rescued from St. Paul fire dies at hospital

"Today is my birthday. But it's really [tragic] for me," Peter says. "I can lose everything, but I don't want to lose one of my daughters."

Peter and his family were all home Sunday night, eating ice cream and watching a movie. Suddenly, the house started to fill with smoke and flames.

"Get out of here right now," Peter says, recalling what he was thinking at the time. "I pushed my baby and my wife... I escort them outside."

Peter then went looking for his elderly mother. It appeared the blaze began in her room.

He found her and dragged her to safety -- but he couldn't find the feisty 4-year-old who went by "Chialia."

Gasping for fresh air, Peter ran in and out six or seven times, the situation growing more desperate with each pass.

Eventually, he ran out of time and lung capacity.

St. Paul Firefighters found the girl hiding under an upstairs bed. She died at nearby Regions Hospital.

The state fire marshal and other investigators spent Tuesday searching for a cause to the blaze. The house, built in 1885, had working smoke detectors. No cause has yet been determined.

Regardless of what sparked the blaze, Peter says he'll never be able to forgive himself for what happened.

"I just feel so guilty," he says. "I'm the father. I don't know why I can't save my daughter."

The Yangs are planning a funeral for next week. If you'd like to help the family, click here to contribute to a benefit fund.

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