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Limo Fire: Driver Describes Minutes Before Flames Engulfed Car

( [email protected] ) May 06, 2013 03:07 PM EDT
Neriza Fojas and eight of her nurse friends rode in a 1999 Lincoln Town Car to go to a party before her marriage, but the limousine burst into flames last night from the rear as they went across the San Mateo Bridge.
San Mateo County firefighters and California Highway Patrol personnel investigate the scene of a limousine fire on the westbound side of the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in Foster City, Calif., on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Five people died when they were trapped in the limo that caught fire as they were traveling, and four others and the driver were able to escape, according to the Oakland Tribune-Bay Area News Group. Oakland Tribune-Bay Area News Group, Jane Tyska

Neriza Fojas and eight of her nurse friends rode in a 1999 Lincoln Town Car to go to a party before her marriage, but the limousine burst into flames last night from the rear as they went across the San Mateo Bridge.

The driver Orville Brown said at first he misunderstood what one of the passengers was saying when she complained about smelling smoke, according to San Francisco Chronicles.

The second time the women knocked, he heard the women screaming, “Smoke, smoke!” and “Pull Over,” he told the Chronicles.

He helped four of the surviving women escape through the small window into the driver’s compartment, and one of the women ran around to the passenger door on the back side of the limo.

“When she opened that back door, I knew it wasn’t a good scene,” Brown told the SF Chronicles. “I figured with all that fire that they were gone, man. There were just so many flames. Within 90 seconds, the car was fully engulfed.”

“This is one of the most horrific things I’ve seen in 21 years with this office,” San Mateo County’s medical examiner, Robert Foucrault, told SF Gate. “Looking at it, they were on top of each other and doing what they could to get out.”

The women, all in their 30s and 40s, died in the flames.

Fojas, 31, had been married recently in United States, said her sister Rosalyn Bersamin, the SF Gate reported. The newly wed were planning to travel to Philippines next month and hold another ceremony before her family June 19, she said.

Fojas and her friends were headed to Foster City Crown Plaza Hotel for her bridal shower, and her husband was at the hotel, waiting for his bride.

The limo driver Brown said he pulled over when one of the women alerted him to the smell of the smoke. He helped some of the survivors to safety, but was unable to save the women in the back.

“We got out by the grace of God. I just wish that I could have done more,” he told SF Gate. “It’s something you never imagine will happen.”

The limo was owned by Limo Stop Inc. of San Jose. Its owner, Kultar Singh, told SF Gate Sunday, “I’m very, very saddened” by the accident. He said he has owned the company for seven years.

According to SF Gate, state records show that the company’s license is valid and up to date.