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California Limo Fire "Accidental In Nature", Say Highway Patrol Officials

posted 19 Aug 2013, 15:37 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 19 Aug 2013, 15:38 ]

A limousine fire that killed a bride and four of her friends has been ruled an accident, California highway patrol officials say.

SAN MATEOCALIFORNIAUNITED STATES (MAY 5, 2013) (NBC) -  California highway patrol officials said on Monday (August 19) that the cause of a stretch limousine fire that killed five of its nine passengers was "accidental in nature".

California highway patrol captain Mike Maskarich told journalists a failure of the rear suspension system of a 1999 Lincoln Town Car stretch limo sparked a fire that killed the five women who were heading to a party across the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge to celebrate the upcoming wedding of one of the victims, 31-year old Neriza Fojas.

"The suspension system components certainly did not adequately keep that vehicle at a level which would have prevented the driveshaft from coming into contact with the floor pan. The contact with the driveshaft and the floor pan was a direct cause of the heat which ultimately led to the fire in the rear passenger compartment," Maskarich told journalists at a briefing in Redwood CityCalifornia.

As the fire developed it ignited the foam padding in the rear seat sending black smoke and flames into the passenger compartment, blocking access to the rear doors of the limo leaving the passengers with one exit - the small pass-through opening into the driver's seat. The five women died as they tried to escape through the narrow opening.

Four other women suffered burns or smoke inhalation but survived the fire after getting out of the car when it stopped on the bridge.

Officials also said that the gas tank never caught on fire, contrary to earlier theories about what caused the blaze.

"There was no evidence, contrary to what was reported, to show that the rear of the vehicle came into contact with the road way thereby causing sparks and subsequently igniting the fuel tank. In fact there was approximately half a tank of fuel still in the vehicle upon our inspection," Maskarich said.

Officials said no charges will be filed.