Driver Describes Deadly Limo Fire: "Pull Over, Pull Over"

The women were celebrating an upcoming wedding

Monday, Jul 8, 2013  |  Updated 12:55 PM PDT
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Orville Brown, the 46-year-old driver of the limousine where five women died on May 4, 2013, said he wished he could have done more to save the women inside. Cheryl Hurd reports.

Orville Brown, the 46-year-old driver of the limousine where five women died on May 4, 2013, said he wished he could have done more to save the women inside. Cheryl Hurd reports.

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The driver of the limousine that caught fire on a California bridge and left a bride and four members of her bridal party dead spoke out about the tragedy. Meanwhile, officials said the limousine was authorized for one fewer passenger than had been in the vehicle on Saturday.

Orville Brown, the limo driver, escaped unhurt and helped three women to safety.

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

The California Highway Patrol said Monday that the limousine was authorized to carry eight passengers, not nine.

Photos and Videos

RAW AUDIO: Coroner Described Gruesome Scene Inside Limo

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault told NBC Bay Area's Diane Dwyer that the scene last night was the worst he's witnessed after 20 years on the job.

Limo Fire Kills Five, Injures Four During Girl's Night Out

Five woman died, including bride Neriza Fojas, Saturday night after the limo they were riding in caught fire on the San Mateo Bridge.
More Photos and Videos

Capt. Mike Maskarich said that in the ongoing investigation, authorities are trying to determine if any criminal wrongdoing occurred when the limo burst into flames and killed five women in the vehicle.

The California Public Utilities Commission regulalates limo companies, and a check with their database on Monday shows that the company - Limo Stop - has no complaints on file.

Other officials at the news conference in Redwood City, were short on detail, but expressed their sympathies.

"We are devastated," Foster City Fire Chief Michael Keefe said, adding that his department is sending prayers to the families.

RAW AUDIO: Limo Driver Speaks About Fatality in San Mateo Bridge Accident

A celebration turned tragic on Saturday when the 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.

Brown, 46, 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.

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“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 said he thought the fire may have been triggered by an electrical problem.  

The bride among the women killed 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. 

Limo Stop released a statement, saying it was "deeply saddened" by the tragedy.

"Limo Stop, Inc. will do everything possible to investigate and assist authorities in determining the cause of this fire in order to bring forth answers and provide closure to (the) victims and their families," the statement added.

Four other people in the limo escaped with burn and smoke inhalation injuries, California Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel said.

As of Monday morning, Valley Medical Center in San Jose said that Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro were still in critical condition. Stanford Medical Center would not discuss the details of the two remaining passengers: Mary G. Guardiano, 42, of Alameda and Nelia Arrellano, 36, of Oakland.

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.

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 in the below video from the scene.

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