During a press conference Monday afternoon, California Highway Patrol announced the findings of their investigation into a deadly limo fire that killed five women on their way to celebrate one victim's wedding engagement. CHP says the fire was started by a mechanical problem and no charges will be filed.
CHP Captain Mike Maskarich told the media today that the fire was caused by "a catastrophic failure of the rear suspension system." The suspension failure caused the bottom of the limo's body to rub on the driveshaft, creating heat and friction that eventually ignited materials in the floorboards and burned the carpet inside. Investigators believe the vehicle's air spring ruptured while crossing the San Mateo Bridge. Video footage of the vehicle from earlier in the same day show it was not riding low.
The women had noticed heat and smoke inside the passenger area of the limo and tried to alert their driver. In interviews with the media after the incident back in May, the driver Orville "Ricky" Brown, said he thought the women were asking if they could smoke. Also, he may have been distracted on the phone with his wife at the time.
"This unfolded very, very rapidly and the overall nature of this tragedy was not something that was foreseeable,'' CHP Commander Mike Maskarich said Monday at the press conference. There will be no criminal charges filed against Brown or the San Jose-based operator Limo Stop, but the company will be fined $7,500 total for being two passengers over the seven-person limit. The limo's maintenance records were all up to date and Brown was reportedly cooperative with the investigation.