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New Bride Among 5 Killed in Limo Fire on Calif. Bridge

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A bridal shower turned tragic on Saturday when five women died after the stretch limousine they were riding in burst into flames on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge over the San Francisco Bay.

Orville Brown, 46, the driver of the limousine, escaped unhurt. He told NBC Bay Area he thought the women were trying to get his attention to ask him to pull over so that they could smoke.

“She said, 'No smoke - smoke smoke…pull over pull over pull over.' I saw the smoke, pulled over, by the time I was getting out the car there was a lady coming over the partition,” Brown said.

Brown helped three other women come through the same partition to safety, he said.

“We were all in shock. Scared. Crying. Frustrated," he said. "I just reach out to the families and wish we could have done more.”

Brown said he thinks the fire may have been triggered by an electrical problem.  

A bride was among the women killed and was identified by her sister-in-law Lovela Nicolas as Neriza Fojas. A family member told NBC Bay Area Fojas was recently married here in the United States, but was also planning a wedding in the Philippines on June 19. 

Fojas was a registered nurse at Fresno Community Regional Medical Center, according to her family. The other four victims who did not survive were not identified Sunday night. 

Four other people in the limo escaped with burn and smoke inhalation injuries, California Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel said. The car's driver was unhurt. 

The CHP credited good Samaritans who stopped and helped some of the women get out. 

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault told NBC Bay Area that the scene was the worst he had witnessed in his 20 years on the job.

He said it was obvious to him that the women were trying to get out of the vehicle and were overcome by smoke. "My understanding is that three passengers got out the side back door on the drivers side, and one made it out the passenger compartment window successfully - to the driver's compartment," Fourcrault said.

The coroner said three of the women made it out the back door on the driver's side. One made it through the divider into the driver's area. That is different than the driver described.  

Fourcrault said four women who did not survive and were found near the front of the passenger compartment as if they were trying to get to the driver's area through the privacy divider. The coroner's office plans to use dental records Monday to positively identify the victims.  

The highway patrol officer on the scene Saturday night said the women were "probably killed by the fire," though the cause of death has not been confirmed.

Witnesses told NBC Bay area the white Lincoln Town Car was not involved in an accident prior to catching on fire.

While the names of those killed have not been released, the CHP released the names, ages and hometowns of the women who survived and the driver. 

The passengers who survived were Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose; Mary G. Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; Nelia Arrellano, 36, of Oakland; and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro. 

The surviving passengers were taken to Valley Medical Center and Stanford Hospital for treatment for burns and smoke inhalation.

The bridge, located about 20 miles southeast of San Francisco, connects San Mateo and Alemada counties. The car was driving from Alameda to a hotel in Foster City, authorities said.

A viewer named David Solomon sent in the still photo above.  The photos show the fire was in the rear of the vehicle. 

The fire was first reported around 10 p.m. in the third lane of westbound state Highway 92, according to the CHP.

A viewer sent us the below video from the scene.

 



Photo Credit: David Solomon

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