Table of Contents
The events relate that on Saturday night, a limousine carrying nine women burst into flames on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, leaving five women dead. The limo driver spoke out on Monday, saying the fire was a nightmare.
Limo driver Orville Brown, age 46, said once he smelled the smoke, it took several seconds to pull off the roadway, and the limo burst into flames when the women opened the door oxygenating the fire.
Ehline speculates the limo itself probably had deflated or defective airbags, which could have caused the rear tires to rub inside the wheel wells, igniting a fire right next to the gas tank. (See the video here.) At least one other limo operator believes the fire could have been started by a cigarette in the rear ashtray that emptied into the trunk. If trash hadn’t ignited and people were not smoking, things may have been different here.
Brown picked up the nine women Saturday evening before 10:00 p.m. in Alameda. The women were going to a Foster City bachelorette party. The bachelorette party was a night out for the women. And this was a group of Bay Area nurses wanting to celebrate another woman’s wedding in the Philippines. Neriza Fojas, who married in the U.S., was planning a second ceremony in the Philippines.
Brown said the night started well, with all of the women enjoying the night. But then it turned into horror. Brown said as the limo was traveling over the elevated portion of the bridge, one of the women knocked on the glass partition separating the rear of the limo and said, “smoke.”
The limo driver assumed she was asking if she could smoke a cigarette. He said the company policy prohibits smoking in vehicles. And they were approximately four minutes from their destination when about 30 seconds later, the woman knocked on the partition again. Brown said he saw the anguish on the woman’s face and began smelling and seeing the smoke.
Brown said he immediately stopped the limo, and the glass partition was down, stating the women “attempted to crawl” to safety into the driver’s cab and out of the conveyance. According to the San Mateo County Coroner, first responders located the dead people’s charred remains near the limousine’s partition.
Michael Ehline told local news this was an indication the trapped occupants tried to escape. They were overcome by fire, smoke, and flames. But four women could make their way through the partition, surviving the limo fire.
According to California Highway Patrol Capt. Mike Maskarich, what transpired is beyond words. And it’s estimated that half of the limousine became engulfed in flames within a minute. Authorities said other drivers, including an off-duty California Highway Patrol Sergeant, tried to help. But they were unable to do so.
California Highway Patrol spokesman Ron Simmons said Sunday that it appears from photos the fire started in the limo’s trunk. Still, at this time, it is officially unknown whether the fire started inside the vehicle or on the exterior.
Brown was with LimoStop Inc. for two months. And the cars get regularly maintained. He said his memory of how the four women got out is hazy.
LimoStop Inc. released a statement they were “deeply saddened” by the deaths. And they will do everything possible to assist the authorities and investigate the cause of the fire to provide answers. Also, they will work to “provide closure for the victims and their families.” One of the victims in the fire was the bride Neriza Fojas, according to her sister-in-law, Lovely Nicolas. Fojas worked at the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno as a nurse.
Police identified two survivors as Jasmine De Guia, age 34, and Amalia Loyola, age 48. But they went to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. The women were treated for burns and smoke inhalation and got listed in critical condition. The survivors took transport to Stanford Medical Center. And there, treatment for smoke inhalation and moderate burns took place.
But their condition is presently unknown. However, authorities later identified the dead bodies as Mary Grace Guardiano, age 42, of Alameda, and Nelia Arellano, age 36, of Oakland. Witness Roxanne Guzman said she was in her car crossing the bridge at approximately 10:00 p.m., and “the flames were gigantic.” According to San Mateo County Deputy Coroner Roger Fielding, it may take medical examiners at least two days to positively identify the victims.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.