REDWOOD CITY, Calif.
First came the tapping. Over the blasting music, limo driver Orville Brown heard someone in the backseat crowd of partying women knock on the partition behind him, saying something about smoke. No smoking allowed, he said.
The taps turned to urgent knocks, and someone screamed “Smoke, smoke” and “Pull over!”
In a few fleeting moments, five of the women celebrating a girls’ night out were killed by flames that quickly overtook the luxury car.
As smoke thickened in the passenger compartment, Brown pulled the white stretch limo to a stop on a bridge over San Francisco Bay and started pulling women out through the partition that separated him from his passengers.
Three good Samaritans, including a firefighter, stopped to help. The first woman who got out ran to the back and yanked open a door, but Brown said it was too late.
From the first tap on the window until the rear of car became an inferno couldn’t have taken more than three minutes, Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Authorities sought answers Monday, hoping to learn what sparked the blaze and why five of the victims could not escape the fast-spreading flames.
The women were celebrating the wedding of a newlywed friend, Neriza Fojas, who was among the dead.
Fojas and another of the fatalities, Michelle Estrera, were nurses at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. The remaining three victims have not been identified.
Four survivors were being treated. They were identified as Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose; Mary Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; Nelia Arrellano, 36, of Oakland; and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro.