The lives of numerous northern California families changed forever Saturday night after five women died in a limousine blaze with a cause still yet to be determined. The limousine was travelling westbound on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in Foster City, California, packed full with women celebrating a bachelorette party. The blaze seemingly arose out of nowhere and engulfed the back half of the vehicle within minutes. Four women were able to escape through the partition separating the front and back halves of the vehicle. The driver was also able to exit the vehicle safely. Unfortunately there was not enough time to save five of the women who were all found deceased, pressed up against the partition.
The limo driver, Orville Brown, said the horror started when he heard someone knocking on the partition, making a comment about smoke. He assumed the women were asking if they could smoke inside the vehicle, so he responded no smoking in the limo. The taps quickly turned into urgent knocks followed by screaming “smoke, smoke” and “pull over.” Brown said he immediately pulled the limo over and started trying to help the women through the partition. The first woman who escaped ran to the back of the vehicle and flung open the door, but it was already too late. Brown said that “within maybe 90 seconds, the car was fully engulfed.” The five women who were killed pushed their way to the partition because smoke and fire kept them from utilizing the rear doors. The smoke and fire overcame the passenger part of the limo too quickly for all of the women to make it through the partition. Among the dead was the bride-to-be, Neriza Fojas, a nurse at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, California.
Brown said he thought the blaze was an electrical fire. He said “it could have been smoldering for days” and that there was never an explosive boom. Investigations continue this week into the cause of the fire, but overcrowding has not been ruled out as a reason for the deaths. The Public Utilities Commission had only authorized the limo to carry eight or fewer passengers at a time, but on the night of the fire there were nine passengers. The Commission requires that all of its carriers maintain daily vehicle inspection reports and have some sort of preventive maintenance program in place. Carriers also have to certify that they have or are enrolled in a safety education and training program.
Limo driver: Fire took 3 minutes to claim 5 lives, www.palmbeachpost.com May 6, 2013
Commission spokesman Terrie Prosper said the requirements for emergency exits only apply to buses and that limousines are not required to carry fire extinguishers. Some claim that the oversight for the limo industry is “lousy” and that the industry as a whole is “poorly regulated.” According to Joan Claybrook, the top federal auto-safety regulator under former President Jimmy Carter, the main agency that oversees motor vehicle safety does not have the money to spend significant time investigating the small businesses that modify limousines after they depart from the assembly line. The 1999 Lincoln Town Car that became engulfed Saturday evening is one of many limousines that were modified after leaving the assembly line. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, twenty-one people died in 2011 in three limo accidents, and five people died in three limo accidents in 2010.
There is a chance that the fire in this accident could have been caused by some sort of product defect that occurred before or after the limousine left the assembly line. That defect may have been discovered if the vehicle was thoroughly inspected before the women entered the limo Saturday evening. Safety should always be a top priority when it comes to all motor vehicles. The Fort Lauderdale consumer advocates at the Friedland | Carmona know how valuable your safety and well-being are. The product liability attorneys have over twenty years of experience helping consumers recover compensation for injuries caused due to someone else’s negligence. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or has died because a motor vehicle was operated while in an unsafe condition, call a personal injury attorney at (305) 661-2008 today for your free consultation.
The Miami wrongful death attorneys at the Friedland | Carmona handle all types of personal injury cases throughout the state of Florida, including Boca Raton, Homestead, North Miami, South Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Pembroke Pines, Hialeah, Kendall, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. The Friedland | Carmona handles all types of personal injury claims, including wrongful death, defective products, medical malpractice, slip and falls and construction site injuries. Call the Miami personal injury attorneys at (305) 661-2008 for your free consultation. Call today and let our family take care of your family!