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Neighbor Shares His Story Of Trying To Save Missing Woman Nadine Turnbull In Marshall Fire

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) -- As searchers continue to try to find two missing people, the story of what happened as the Marshall Fire raced through an old farm belonging to missing 91-year-old Nadine Turnbull is emerging.

scotty roberts and kortney bell
(credit: CBS)

"When it hit our house it was like a freight train. It was a wall of fire," said Scotty Roberts, who lost the RV he lived in with his wife and two children on the property next-door.

All the structures on the property went up within about 20 minutes after the fire began to spread about 2 miles away. Near their home, an old farm with its remaining buildings stood along with property off S 76th St. It belonged to Nadine Turnbull.

RELATED: 91-Year-Old Nadine Turnbull Among 3 People Missing After Marshall Fire In Superior And Louisville

"Most tolerant, most patient woman you've ever met in your life. Kind. Just a sweet nature," described Kortney Bell, Roberts' wife. "I did a lot of work for her. Helped her granddaughter," said Roberts of Turnbull, who used a walker and lived with her adult granddaughter Layla on the property.

Nadine Turnbull 3 (from Savanah Garcia Martinez)
Nadine Turnbull (credit: Savanah Garcia Martinez)

They had a few animals -- goats and horses as well as dogs. She had been in the house for many decades, long before there was development around them.

"She said, when she moved there, it was nothing but rolling prairies there and just beautiful," said Roberts of one of their conversations.

RELATED: Family Anxious To Find Missing Edna 'Nadine' Turnbull Following Marshall Fire

When the Marshall Fire began to rip through, and they escaped from their RV home, they had a feeling Nadine and Layla were still in danger. Roberts spotted a sheriff's deputy in a pickup.

"I told him we had a neighbor that was stuck in her house and we needed to get her out, and he said, 'Come on, Bud, let's go get her.'"

The deputy trailed Roberts as he went to the front door of the one-story home.

"I was beating on the door yelling, 'You got to get out of the fire Nadine!' She opened the door, and as soon as I did the fire come in, and it just engulfed everything. The front of the whole house was on fire."

The oxygen from inside the house seemed to draw the fire down over the roof. The deputy backed away. Roberts slammed the door shut and inside looked for another exit. A side door had clutter in front of it in the small home.

"I just told Nadine, 'I don't know what to do Nadine; we gotta get out of here, and I grabbed her, and I just took her by the north door, and it was all blocked by this stuff. So I just started throwing everything, got that door wide open, and I told Layla, 'Run Layla, run Layla.'"

Layla got out safely. But Nadine was caught up with their dogs on leashes around her arms. The dogs had wrapped their leashes around table legs.

"She was tethered to the dogs that were wrapped around the table, and I couldn't pull all of them and the table with me at the same time." The two fell as he tried to pull her out. "And when I come back up like this I fell off the step and hit the truck, and there was just fire everywhere, and I just couldn't breathe no more, and I just looked, and I said, 'I'm sorry,' and I ran, and I couldn't go back into the fire."

Roberts had to go. "I feel so bad, I left her laying there, and I just feel so bad about that. I tried so hard. I just kept telling her, 'Nadine, I'm sorry Nadine, I'm sorry.'"

Emergency crews could not approach. Roberts does not know where the sheriff's deputy went. He does not blame him. "As soon as that door opened and that oxygen hit that fire, it's like everything went whoosh." A Boulder County Sheriff's spokeswoman declined in an email to discuss what happened to the deputy saying they are focused right now on dealing with the fire's aftermath.

Kortney Bell believes her husband was heroic. "Absolutely. Him and my nephew and my son," she said. The nephew also went to the door with Scotty, but went back before he went in. Her son warned them to get out of their RV and leave urgently as the fire approached.

There's no confirmation yet of the death of Nadine Turnbull, but she remains missing. Scotty and his family have taken up residence with a friend in Aurora temporarily. His truck was lost in the fire. The car they drove out has had two flats since the fire, likely because of the heat damage to the tires. The day after when Scotty turned on the rear defroster, the rear window collapsed, he feels because of the heat damage in the fire.

Greater still is the hurt for Scotty. "Don't feel right though. I should have saved my friend," he sobbed. He's having trouble sleeping after the loss of Nadine.

"Time I guess is what it's going to take," he said. "She was a wonderful lady, she really was. I took the chance on going in because I just felt like it was my duty to do that."

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