Neriza Fojas, 31, Michelle Estrera and three others who have not yet been identified were killed after a limousine burst into flames on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in Redwood City. According to an Associated Press news report, the fatal incident occurred the night of May 4, 2013 when Fojas and her friends were in the midst of celebrating her bridal shower.
The three injured survivors who have been identified as as Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose; Mary Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro were able to escape, but have been hospitalized with smoke inhalation and other serious injuries. Nelia Arellano, 36, another survivor, was treated and released. Fojas’ family members have said that she had recently wed and was planning to travel to her native Philippines to hold another ceremony.
Tragic Fire Causes Injuries and Fatalities
Officials say the rear portion of the Lincoln Town Car went up in an explosion of flames. The 46-year-old driver, Orville Brown, said one of the passengers in the back knocked on the partition between the passenger area and the driver to complain about the smell of smoke. The driver said he initially did not hear them, but later heard them screaming and asking him to pull over. He was able to help four women escape through the partition. Five women burned to death as they tried to get out. The women who were killed were found pressed up against the partition behind the driver because smoke and fire kept them from the rear exits of the stretch limo’s extended passenger compartment.
What Caused This Fatal Fire?
Officials are looking into a number of issues in this case including whether the limo was overcrowded. The state Public Utilities Commission authorizes the vehicle to carry eight or fewer passengers, but it had nine on the night of the horrific fire. There are also several other questions here. Was the limo properly maintained? Was there an electric problem that caused this fatal fire? Did a faulty or defective product in the limo spark this fire? Could the driver have done more to save the victims? I trust officials are looking into these and other issues in order to determine precisely what occurred here and why. Officials say that the limo’s owner, Limo Stop, is licensed and has shown evidence of liability insurance.
Protecting Victims’ Rights
One can only imagine the grief, shock and pain that this horrific incident has caused to the surviving victims and family members. During such a time, it is critical that injured victims and families of the deceased victims seek the counsel of an experienced California personal injury attorney who will stay abreast of the official investigation, which could take several weeks or even months, and ensure that their legal rights and best interests are protected. In this case, the limo operator or the vehicle’s manufacturer could be held liable for injuries, damages and losses, depending on the circumstances of the incident and what the investigation reveals.