Investigators hope that the four people who escaped a limousine fire, in which a newlywed and four other women died, will offer key information about what started the weekend blaze as they crossed a San Francisco-area bridge.
Nine women were in the limo, along with a male driver, when it caught fire in the westbound lane of the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge late Saturday, California Highway Patrol said.
The bride was identified as 31-year-old Neriza Fojas. Fojas, a registered nurse, was recently married in the United States and was planning a second ceremony in the Philippines next month. Fojas and her friends were on their way to the Crowne Plaza Hotel for her bridal shower, where her husband was waiting, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The driver, who was not hurt, told investigators he was driving the women over the bridge when one of them complained of smoke inside the passenger compartment, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said, according to The Associated Press.
By the time the driver pulled over and exited the 1999 Lincoln Town car, the back of the limo was fully engulfed in flames. Four passengers escaped the blaze, with one squeezing thought the partition behind the driver.
Firefighters rushed to the scene and put out the fire before finding five badly burned bodies huddled near the partition.
"My guess would be they were trying to get away from the fire and use that window opening as an escape route," Foucrault said.
The San Mateo County Coroner's Office has not officially released the names of the women killed in the fire.
The owner of the limousine company, Limo Stop, told ABC News in a statement that he's deeply saddened and will do everything possible to investigate and assist authorities.
Police say it is unclear how the fire started and will be counting on surviving victims to give their accounts leading up to the inferno. The flames reportedly spread so fast that the rest of the women sitting in the back of the limo had no time to escape.
Other drivers stopped to assist, California Highway Patrol Officer Amelia Jack told ABC News.
"The driver was able to get out, some good Samaritans did stop and assist and try and pull people from the fire," Jack said.
Russell McGillicuddy, owner of Air One Limousine Service in San Jose, Calif., said the 1999 Lincoln Town car only had two doors in the back.
"It was an aged piece of equipment and I don't believe it had the extra door and they would have to climb over each other and exit through the rear doors," said McGillicuddy, who has no connection to the limo in question.
Friends fondly remembered Fojas as likeable and active.
"She was nice person, quiet and friendly," Roy Talagon said.
Ivy Savero said, "I always saw her in her Facebook that she's riding a bike … sometimes, I think, mountain climbing."
California Highway Patrol identified the surviving passengers as Mary Grace Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; Nelia Rafael Arellano, 36, of Oakland; Amalia P. Loyola, 48, of San Leandro; and Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose.
Desguia and Loyola were listed in critical condition, a spokeswoman for Valley Medical Center told the AP. The condition of Arrellano, who was taken to another hospital, was unknown. Guardiano's condition is unclear.
The driver's name is Orville F. Brown, 46, of San Jose from Limo Stop Inc., according to California Highway Patrol.
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