EXCLUSIVE: Roommates struggle with 'survivor's guilt' after fire - KMSP-TV

EXCLUSIVE: Roommates struggle with 'survivor's guilt' after fire

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A young man's life was cut short on Sunday after an unattended candle started a devastating house fire in St. Paul that forever changed a group of friends in a matter of moments.

"When it started, noticed flames all over the room," Jesse Emberly said. "I tried to get all of it out into the hall. I turned around and the room was completely on fire."

Emberly told Fox 9 News he can clearly remember the candle that was burning in his bedroom after his 21st birthday party on Saturday night, but although he did everything he could to stamp out the intensifying flames, nothing worked.

"My whole ceiling was catching on fire," Jake Wolf recalled. "Opened door for the last time, couldn't see anything. Eyes started burning, fire coming out of every room -- just ran down the stairs."

Several of the seven housemates tried to combat the flames, but said they simply spread too quickly and the heat became too much to handle.

"The only thing I could think of -- run into the bathroom, throw sink water into the hall onto the fire. It wasn't working; it was too hot," Devon Haggberg said.

Haggberg and his girlfriend soon found themselves out of time. They went to a second-floor window and jumped to safety from the porch overhang.

"It just got too hot to physically do anything," Haggberg explained. "Couldn't breathe, just tried to get everybody out."

Yet, one house mate didn't make it out. Dan Trabant succumbed to smoke inhalation, and although firefighters were able to retrieve him from a 2nd-floor bathroom, he died hours later.

Now, the group of friends tells Fox 9 News they are struggling to cope with survivor's guilt.

"We all viewed Dan as a brother of ours," Lee Mintz said. "He was just a really loud, easy-going, happy guy."

As they remember their friend and the traumatic ordeal, they can't help but wonder whether anything could have been done differently even though they say they know everyone did what they could.

A visitation for Trabant will be held on Wednesday between 4 and 7 p.m. at Washburn-McReavy Edina Chapel, and a private, family service will be held on Thursday.

ARCHIVE: 1 dead, 1 hospitalized in St. Paul house fire

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