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Baby dies in Sturgis fire

STURGIS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Tragedy strikes a St. Joseph county family early Sunday morning.

A mother was looking forward to celebrating her first Christmas with her baby girl, but a fire broke out at Gateway Village Apartments in Sturgis around 5:30 a.m.

"When I seen that fire upstairs and the mother and someone else that was there, they were running down the stairs screaming help the baby, and it was so much smoke, you couldn't get up there," neighbor Ardythe Foley says.

Neighbors describe the minutes after a fire broke out at Gateway Village apartments in Sturgis early Sunday morning. Firefighters, family and friends did everything possible, but could not save an infant, only two weeks away from her first birthday.

"I'm sitting here, crawling to my daughter's room, just beating on the door, trying to stand up so I can open it, I couldn't get to her. I couldn't get to my little girl ... it was bad." the girl's mother Kendra Rustad-Hojara says.

She tells Newschannel 3 she has no idea what happened, calling it all a blur, waking up to thick smoke in her room, with everything, including her hair on fire. The family was back at the scene later today, sifting through the rubble, only days away from the young girl's first Christmas.

"I was screaming at the cops, 'Please just go in there, just get my baby, just get her,' and there's people just sitting there holding me back, and I'm freaking out, that's my baby in there and I can't get her," Rustad-Hojara says.

Right now, firefighters are still trying to figure out the cause of the fire, but say it started in the mother's room. Eight apartments were damaged by the flames. Family and friends continue leaning on each other.

"She was gone," Rustad-Hojara says. "The smoke killed her, because no one could help her. But I know she's in a better place right now."