by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:ROWAN COUNTY, N.C.,None —
An elderly man died Wednesday morning when he couldn't escape his Rowan County home as it burned to the ground.
Only the brick chimney was still standing after the fire on Leonard Road in Salisbury.
An 80-year-old woman living with him escaped.
Family said Mary Everhart is still in shock.
"She said, 'I was trying. I couldn't get him out. I couldn't get him out,' and she just started crying," Shesta Osorio said.
Osorio said she almost cried as well as her great-aunt told her how she tried to save her longtime boyfriend, 78-year-old Ray Brown.
Officials said Everhart told them she woke up to the smell of smoke and spotted the fire in the living room.
She called 911 but the phone disconnected.
Family said Everhart screamed to Brown to get out and told them that Brown said he was right behind her. When she got outside, she realized he hadn't made it out.
"She ran around the house to the windows and was banging on the windows, screaming at the window for him to break the windows," Osorio said.
Family said Everhart ran down the road in her bare feet to try to get help.
Police came first to check because of the 911 hang up and then immediately called the fire department.
But it was hours before they could get the fire under control and recover Brown's body.
"You know somebody your whole life and now they're gone," Osorio said. "And they're gone because of this. I don't ever want anybody to lose their life that way."
It was just over a year ago that Everhart suffered another loss because of a fire.
The stand where she sold books and perfume at the flea market in Salisbury burned down. Osorio says it's all taking a toll on her great-aunt.
"She couldn't come to the house," she said. "She had to turn around and go back. She couldn't come any further."
Fire officials said they are still trying to figure out what caused the fire.