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Investigators Seek Cause Of Deadly California Limo Fire; Driver Says Fire Was "Horrific"

posted 7 May 2013, 05:38 by Mpelembe   [ updated 7 May 2013, 05:40 ]

Captain Mike Maskarich of the California Highway Patrol says officials will get answers for the victims and families of a tragic limousine fire that left a new bride and four of her friends dead. The driver of the limousine describes the scene to NBC News, saying flames engulfed the vehicle.

 REDWOOD CITYCALIFORNIAUNITED STATES (MAY 6, 2013) (NBC) - Investigators were trying to determine on Monday (May 6) what caused a stretch limousine to burst into flames as it crossed a bridge over the San Francisco Bay, killing a new bride and four of her friends, law enforcement officials said.

Four other women suffered burns or smoke inhalation when the white Lincoln Town Car caught fire on Saturday (May 4) night while traveling westbound over the San Mateo-Hayward bridge on its way to a party in Foster City, located about 25 miles south of San Francisco overlooking the bay, theCalifornia Highway Patrol said.

"The vehicle that was utilized is considered a charter party carrier and is not regulated by theCalifornia Highway Patrol but rather by the public utilities commission. This particular vehicle is listed by the PUC as for carrying 8 or fewer passengers," Captain Mike Maskarich, Commander of the California Highway Patrol in the Redwood City area said at a news conference.

"The California Highway Patrol, the Foster City Fire Department, the Coroner's Office are all committed to ensuring the utmost thoroughness of this investigation and to be able to offer to the victims and their families some semblance of answers for the tragic events that just occurred," he added.

The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported that among the dead was new bride Neriza Fojas, 31, who had been celebrating her recent marriage with eight friends, all of them in their 30s or 40s.

Four of the women died alongside Fojas after they were unable to escape the burning limousine, the CHP said. There was no word on the condition of the four injured women on Monday.

The San Mateo County medical examiner, Robert Foucrault, told reporters at a morning press conference on Monday that the deceased women were found clustered around a partition between the passenger compartment and driver's seat.

"The examinations of all five victims will all take place. The second part of that investigation will occur later today, would be to get the individuals positively identified and their families notified of the deaths," he said.

Law enforcement officials said it was too early to determine what caused the 1999 Town Car to catch fire at its rear end, pending an inspection of the limousine by mechanical experts and fire department investigators.

The limousine's driver, Orville Brown, told NBC's affiliate KNTV in an interview that he first became aware of a problem when one of the women knocked on the partition and complained of smoke in the passenger compartment.

He said that because of loud music playing in the car he at first misunderstood and thought the woman was asking to smoke a cigarette. A few seconds later, he said, the women knocked again and were shouting, "Smoke, smoke!" and "Pull over!"

He described the scene after he pulled over.

"It was horrific. The flames were high and it seemed like, I don't know how to explain it, but the car was engulfed, you know completely engulfed and I felt that nobody could have survived that. The flames were too high. It happened so fast," he said.