GRIEVING FAMILIES PUSH FOR LIMO SAFETY BILL

By Henni Espinosa, ABS CBN North America Bureau

Alameda, Calif – The outpouring of support continues to come from all parts of America for the victims of the limousine fire and their families. Last May 4th, a stretch limo carrying nine Filipino friends, burst into flames along San Mateo bridge killing five and injuring four.

Fruitvale Healthcare Center, where eight of the victims worked, has set up the San Mateo Bridge Angels fund account, with the help of Bank of America, to help the victims and their families.

Just as Abner Alcantara and his two children continue to pray for his wife, Anna Fe, who was one of those who perished, help keeps pouring in and he is grateful for the support.

He can never forget the moment authorities informed him of the worst news of his life –losing his wife.

“Yun ang pinakamasakit. Yon ang pinakamasakit na narinig ko sa buong buhay ko,” Abner tearfully recounted.

The 1999 lincoln town car that was engulfed in flames was not required to undergo a state safety inspectionor even carry a fire extinguisher.

Stretch limos like these have been restructured to accommodate more passengers.

Experts say major changes to lengthen cars can put pressure on fuel lines and electrical wiring.

Larger limos go through inspections from the state every year but not with cars carrying fewer than 10 people.

This week, State Senator Jerry Hill said he will introduce a bill that will require fire extinguishers in limos and will look into why cars carrying 10 people or less are not inspected.

At the service for Fyla Geronga, another Filipina who died in the fire, her husband, Aldrin, said it’s about time that bill is passed.

“Dapat mapasa para wala nang matulad sa amin, kahit paano’y mabawasan ang trahedyang nangyari,” Aldrin said.

Daly City mayor Ray Buenaventura also applauds Senator Hill for promoting safety for limousines.

He said his tragedy has affected not just the families involved, but all Filipinos.

“I don’t think that the bay area has experienced such a tragedy like this, among the Filipino community in one instant moment,” he said.

Grieving families like Geronga are thankful that the Filipino community has reached out to them in this time of need.

“Kahit pala sa mga pangyayaring ito, meron pa ring mga taong naghahangad ng para sa ikabubuti ng mga taong naapektuhan ng trahedyang ito,” Aldrin said.

Lawyer Arnedo Valera, the co-executive director of the Migrant Heritage Commission has offered legal assistance to the victims through the organization’s Legal Resources program. He said that if investigators conclude that the limousine company and manufacturer are liable for the fire, it is possible to pursue a case of wrongful death.

“Almost certainly there will be a wrongful death cause of action for the mishap. As there is a carrier contract. There is an enhanced standard of care which is required under the circumstances,” Valera said.

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