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
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.