Bride, Four Friends Die in Limo Fire

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 6 2013 1:23 PM

Limo Fire Kills a New Bride and Four Friends

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A view of the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge is seen from Air Force One on Oct. 8, 2012 in San Mateo, Calif. The bridge links Foster City to Hayward across the San Francisco Bay.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

A terrible story of a limo fire on the San Mateo Bridge that killed a bride and four of her friends is getting a lot of national media attention on a slow news day. It's easy to see why. The details are gruesome—eight friends were out with their newlywed pal on their way to a party on Saturday night when the limo suddenly caught fire. Minutes later, the entire back of the car was consumed in flames, and five, including the bride, were dead.

If you want to read more on the story, the San Francisco Chronicle has a solid recap with some context, based on an interview with the limo driver, Orville Brown, who'd been on the job for about two months, but a commercial driver for much longer than that. The 46-year-old driver pulled four women through the partition between the back of the limo and the front, all of whom survived. The first survivor ran to the back door of the car to try and help her friends:

"When she opened that back door, I knew it wasn't a good scene. I figured with all that fire that they were gone, man," Brown said. "There were just so many flames. Within maybe 90 seconds, the car was fully engulfed." The women who died were huddled near the partition window, San Mateo County medical examiner Robert Foucrault said. "They were there on top of each other and doing what they could to get out." As members of the group that escaped waited for emergency responders, they cried. Some screamed. Brown said he had trouble calling 911 because he was so shaken.
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Brown was warned twice, seconds apart, about the smoke in the back of the limo. But because of the loud music playing in back, Brown initially thought the women were asking if they could smoke, according to his account. "I just wish that I could have done more," he said. According to his brother, Brown no longer wants to drive, but he's promised his next two paychecks to the victims' families. 

But none of that answers one big remaining question: How'd the fire start in the first place? There's not really any convincing answer being floated in public. The limo company who owns the vehicle, Limo Stop, says it will cooperate with investigators. As of now, it looks like the investigators believe their best lead will be any information provided by the surviving passengers.

Read the full story at the Chronicle.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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