Bride, friends who died in California limo fire identified

Vehicles drive on San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in Foster City, California May 5, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Vehicles drive on San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in Foster City, California May 5, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

A bride and four friends who died over the weekend trapped inside a burning limousine on a bridge over San Francisco Bay were formally identified by a coroner on Tuesday, but the cause of their death and of the fire are still under investigation.

New bride Neriza Fojas, 31, and eight female friends were heading across the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge on Saturday night to a party celebrating her recent wedding when the white stretch limousine they were riding in burst into flames.

Law enforcement officials say Fojas and four of her friends died as they tried desperately to escape the limo by crawling through a small opening in a partition between the passenger compartment and driver’s seat.

Four other women, who managed to get out of the car after it stopped on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, survived the fire. A spokeswoman for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center said two of the injured women remained hospitalized there and were listed in fair condition on Tuesday.

In addition to Fojas, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault identified the deceased women as Michelle Estrera, 35, of Fresno and Anna Alcantara, 46, Felomina Geronga, 43, and Jennifer Balon 39, all of Alameda, California.

Foucrault said the cause and manner of their death remained under investigation pending toxicology tests and that a final report could take three to four weeks to complete.

Law enforcement officials said they don’t yet know what caused the 1999 Town Car to catch fire at its rear end, pending an inspection of the limousine by mechanical experts and fire department investigators.

‘STOP THE CAR!’

California Highway Patrol Captain Mike Maskarich told reporters on Monday there was no evidence that the limo had been involved in a collision or had struck debris in the road. He said it had been carrying one more passenger than the eight that had been authorized.

Survivor Nelia Arrellano, 36, described to ABC News in a tearful interview broadcast on Tuesday her desperate efforts to alert driver Orville Brown to smoke in the limousine.

Arrellano told ABC she knocked on the partition separating the passenger compartment from the driver’s seat and told Brown: “‘There’s already a fire. Stop the car! Stop the car!’”

Brown, in interviews with CNN and the San Francisco Chronicle, has said that when the women first alerted him to smoke he misunderstood because of loud music playing in the car and thought they were asking to smoke a cigarette.

Brown told the newspaper that it took between 30 seconds to a minute before he was able to pull over on the bridge and help some of the women through the partition. But as one went back to open the rear door, he said, it was already too late.

“When she opened that back door, I knew it wasn’t a good scene,” Brown told the Chronicle. “I figured with all that fire that they were gone, man. There were just so many flames. Within maybe 90 seconds, the car was fully engulfed.”

Brown had picked up Fojas and her friends in Alameda and was driving them to meet her husband at a party at a hotel across the bay in Foster, California. The couple was planning to travel to her native Philippines next month for another celebration with family members there.

The five women died on the same day that a 26-year-old woman was killed after falling out of a bachelorette party bus onto a busy Kansas freeway and was struck by at least three vehicles.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Tattooed, bearded suspect sought in Williamsburg bike theft:…

The suspected thief faces grand larceny charges after investigators said he entered the building on North 5th Street in Williamsburg.

Local

Report: Rich New Yorkers don't move from NYC…

An Independent Budget Office analysis found that the wealthiest residents don't move out of the city any more or less than other New Yorkers.

National

Pioneers for domestic violence push on

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article. Two decades have passed since the O.J. Simpson trial captivated the country. But in the 20 years…

Local

Food truck with a mission hires at-risk New…

A group branding itself as food trucks for social justice specifically hires and trains young men and women with troubled pasts.

Movies

Scarlett Johansson: “I guess I’m the reluctant action…

We’re always told that the brain is the most complex instrument in the world and new movie “Lucy” proves just why it’s such a force…

Movies

Review: Liking Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'…

Woody Allen's latest, "Magic in the Moonlight," concerns a magician (Colin Firth) trying to debunk an alleged psychic (Emma Stone).

Movies

Piano from 'Casablanca' up for sale at auction

An iconic piano featured in Rick's Cafe Americain in the 1942 Hollywood classic "Casablanca" is expected to be the highlight of a sale of film…

Music

Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks more accessible than Animal…

Believe it or not, Avey Tare — the man in the mustachioed mask pictured here in the pool of blood — may have made the poppiest music of his career.

NFL

5 players to watch at Giants training camp

Metro takes a look at five players who will be on everyone’s mind when Giants training camp gets underway.

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

Parenting

Buy gently worn back-to-school clothes with Kidizen

Kidizen allows parents to buy and sell gently worn back-to-school clothes.

Wellbeing

Ruling could be beginning of the end for…

This morning, a federal appeals court threw out an IRS regulation that implements subsidies for low-income Americans who bought insurance through Obamacare. These Affordable Care…

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…