Orville Brown, the San Mateo Bridge limo driver, initially said he misunderstood the cries for help coming from the passenger area. However, survivor Neila Arellano claims he refused to assist the women trapped in the burning car and shouting for help.
In a three-part video interview with NBC Bay Area, Arellano says she yelled at Brown to stop the car, but he "didn't want to listen." She goes on to claim that, when Brown finally stopped the limo, he did nothing to help the other women.
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Brown was unhurt in the incident. For his part, he says he did, in fact, help but wishes he could have done more. "I'm not the hero," Brown explains. "The first lady out, got two out. I helped with two. There were other people there that actually helped."
Earlier reports claim that one of the passengers ran to the back of the vehicle after escaping through the partition window and out the driver's side door. When the door opened, it apparently fueled the fire, causing it to spread. "When they opened the door, that let the fire get oxygen, that oxygenated the fire, it allowed oxygen to get to the fire and that fire spread so fast," Brown said. The five victims were found huddled near the partition window at the front where they appeared to be trying to escape.
During a press conference with the California Highway Patrol on Monday, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault and Foster City Fire Chief Michael Keefe said the flames engulfed the entire vehicle in about 90 seconds. “I could say they were getting away from the fire and that’s why they were in the front towards the partition," Foucrault told reporters, "you could also probably say that they were trying to get out as well.” As CBS 5's Joe Vasquez points out in his re-creation of the incident, many limousines engage child locks on the back doors to prevent anyone in the back from accidentally opening a door while on the road.
The bride, Neriza Fojas, was confirmed dead yesterday. Three other deceased were identified as fellow nurses Michelle Estrera of Fresno, Jenni Balon of Dublin and Anna Alcantara of San Lorenzo. A fifth victim has yet to be ID'd.
The 1999 stretch Lincoln Town Car was authorized by the California Public Utilities Commission to carry eight passengers. A spokesperson for the CPUC said the agency is still looking into whether the operator Limo Stop Inc willfully misrepresented the vehicle's capacity, in which case they could be subject to a $7,500 fine per day it was in violation. The vehicle was permitted for charter rides, but did not have any state inspections because CHP only examines vehicles licensed for 10 or more passengers. Although Brown said he believes the fire was an electrical issue, fire investigators have said it "could take several weeks" to determine the exact cause.
Previously: Burning Limo Was Over Passenger Limit
Limo Driver Recounts Horrific Fire That Killed Bride, 4 Others
Limousine Fire Kills Five In Bachelorette Party, Including Bride, On San Mateo Bridge