By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

May 7, 2013

FRESNO, Calif— Shock, disbelief, grief as the Filipino and nursing community in Fresno, California got news that two local Filipina nurses died in a bizarre accident some 200 miles away.

Filipinos at a local restaurant were sad to hear that one of their customers was among 5 killed in a freak limousine fire in San Mateo California over the weekend.

Doris Evangelista says the Batangas born Michelle Estrera was a regular, ever since she moved to Fresno from Oakland a few years ago. She moved in around the same time as Neriza Fojas.

Newly married Fojas was planning a second wedding ceremony in the Philippines next month and Estrera was the maid of honor. But now that dream is gone as they both died in the limousine fire over the weekend.

“It’s really sad that I lost a customer. She’s a nice woman. It’s sad that we lost fellow Filipinos servicing our hospital here,” said Doris Evanelista who owns the Angry Asian which the Estrera family frequented.

The two women worked as trauma nurses at the Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno.

Raul Velasco’s wife also works there as a nurse.

“I know they are working at the same hospital with my wife. She mentioned this morning how said they all are about this tragedy,” he said.

The CRMC released a statement expressing its condolences, hailing Fojas and Estrera as outstanding nurses who dedicated their lives caring for patients.

Aside frome Estrera and Fojas, Anna Alcantara, 46, Felomina Geronga, 43 and Jennifer Balon, 39 also perished in the horrific blaze.

Coroner Robert Foucrault said the cause of the victims’ death is still being determined pending toxicology results. The coroner’s final report could take 3 to 4 weeks to complete.

Of the four who survived, it was Nelia Arellano who spoke about their experience with the limo driver. In an interview with San
Francisco’s KGO, Arellano recounted how she was knocking on the partition that separated them from the driver.

“He didn’t want to listen, I told him there is smoke and the fire came out. There is already a fire. Stop the car! Stop the car!
When he stop the car, he get out from the car, he just get out from the car. He just opened the door, that’s all he did,” Arellano told KGO.

The Philippine Nurses Association of the Central Valley plans to hold a memorial in honor of the victims. The CRMC is also scheduled to hold a memorial for Michelle and Neriza later this week.

The Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco, on behalf of the Philippine Government, had conveyed its deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of the five victims.

Consulate officials have spoken with the spouses and relatives of some of the victims, and offered to extend any assistance they would need. They are likewise closely monitoring the condition of the survivors.

“We call on all kababayans to join us in praying for eternal rest of souls of those who perished in this unfortunate incident, for the welfare of their families and loved ones, and well as for the speedy and full recovery of those who survived,” Philippine Consul General Marciano A. Paynor, Jr. said. “We are ready to assist them in whatever way we can,” he added.

5 Comments on this post.

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  • kikayPang0
    8 May 2013 at 6:26 am - Reply

    According to investigators finding, they recognized some unusual things inside the limo …. burned cooking oil , fish balls, portable camping stove ,frying pan and BBQ sticks .

  • avemaria
    8 May 2013 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Shame on those who leave insensitive comments about the limo fire victims. Are you bashing and ridiculing the victims in their tragedy? Are you even aware that these victims was crying for help and the driver ignored them? That they had been telling driver there was smoke coming out but the driver did not bother to stop in a timely manner to listen and find out what seemed to be the problem? If only he did, these victims could have been saved..the five killed should still be alive.

  • av
    8 May 2013 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Its because that some people that leaves comments on these such articles are either racists or dislikes Filipinos.

  • Arbi
    8 May 2013 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    @kikayPangO … please enlighten me with your comment/posting?

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