A Long Island dad watched helplessly as his wife and their two small children burned to death in an early morning house fire yesterday.
Cops said Melvin Perichi, 19, fell asleep in front of the TV and was awakened at 5:25 a.m. by smoke pouring through his one-story home at 95 E. Pulaski Road in Huntington Station.
He raced down the hall in a bid to reach the master bedroom where his wife, Betty, 21, and their children, Jennifer, 23 months, and Katy, 5 months, were trapped.
But the fast-moving fire was too intense.
"He was driven back by the smoke and heat," said Detective Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick.
Perichi ran outside and began screaming hysterically as flames shot 20 feet into the air.
"My kids are in there! My wife is in there!" he cried, according to neighbors.
Neighbor Carlos Carranza, who ran outside to help, told The Post:
"I heard [the wife] screaming, 'Please! Help me, help me!' But there was too much fire."
Meanwhile, off-duty Detective Sgt. Bruce Tilden, who was driving by, jumped out of his car, ran inside and made several attempts to run through the flames to save the mother and kids.
"He too was forced back," Fitzpatrick said.
Firefighters found the victims huddled together in a corner of the room, the mother with her arms around her kids.
Both Tilden and Perichi were taken to Huntington Hospital, where they were treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
Four other tenants in a basement apartment were able to escape.
Betty Perichi's family said the young mom had moved to Long Island from El Salvador seven years ago and was a graduate of Huntington HS.
Last night, friends and relatives were keeping a close watch on Melvin, a landscaper, who was despondent.
"All he would say all the time was 'I love my daughters. I love my daughters,' " said Marcos Gonzalez, who worked with Melvin at New Horizons Landscaping in Huntington.
Family friend Maribel Nieves told WABC-TV: "He says he lost everything that he cares for so he doesn't want to live. We are trying to give him some moral support."
Officials from the Suffolk County Arson Squad were investigating last night, but said the blaze, which possibly started in the living room, is not considered suspicious.