By Henni Espinosa, ABS CBN North America Bureau

May 6, 2013

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – Investigators are still trying to determine why the back of a stretch limousine that carried Filipino passengers became fully engulfed in fire so quickly, as it crossed San Mateo Bridge on Saturday night. The horrific blaze killed Filipino newlywed Neriza Fojas, 31, and four members of her bridal entourage and injured four others.

The driver of the 1999 Lincoln Town Car, Orville Brown, who was not injured in the fire, said that one of the passengers knocked on the partition between the passenger area and the driver compartment and complained about smelling smoke.

Fojas and her friends were on their way to her bridal party when the limo they were on caught fire.

“I smelled carbon and wiring. The cause of the fire was probably electrical,” said Brown in an interview with CNN.

One of the women reportedly tried to open a back door to help Fojas and four others escape. But Brown said that in 90 seconds, the limo was surrounded by fire and they were unable to get the others out.

The five women trapped inside, including Fojas, were found dead on the scene, as firefighters tried to contain the fire.

Robert Foucrault, coroner of San Mateo County said it was the most horrible scene he’s seen in his more than 20 years of work. “Just seeing the positions they were in, it was horrible. They were on top of each other, possibly trying to get away from the fire or trying to get out,” he said.

Commander Mike Maskarich, Commander of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Redwood City revealed today in a press conference that the limo was only authorized to transport eight passengers or less, but was carrying nine. “This particular vehicle was listed under the Public Utilities Commission. We will be working with the PUC to determine what specific regulatory mandates are required in this situation,” he said.

Fojas, a registered nurse from Fresno, California, was recently married in the U.S. She and her husband reportedly planned to return to the Philippines next month to hold another ceremony for relatives.

The full list of the deceased have yet to be released by the coroner’s office. But among the passengers who survived are Mary Grace Guardiano, 42, of Alameda, Nelia Arellano, 36, of Oakland, Amalia Loyola, 48 of San Leandro and Jasmin de Guia, 34 of San Jose.

Guardiano’s co-worker at Crown Bay Nursing and rehab, where she works as a charge nurse said she knew Guardiano was celebrating with friends over the weekend, but never expected for things to end so tragically. Razyline Perena said, “I was shocked. All of her co-workers here were emotional because she’s our friend.”

Another co-worker confirmed that after being treated at intensive care for smoke inhalation and burns, Guardiano has been discharged.

Foucrault said the coroner’s office is trying to reach out to family members, especially to the bride’s groom, who remains unidentified at this point.

You may contact Henni Espinosa at for more information.

3 Comments on this post.

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  • kikayPang0
    7 May 2013 at 4:45 am - Reply

    Girls are using too much hair spray and were combustible .

  • noz
    7 May 2013 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    if indeed, the thorough forensic investigations may lead to limo’s mechanical, manufacturer error or oversight with the driver surmising of some kind of electrical short circuit causing overheating to fire, or otherwise ie criminal intent to create damage, in this case death of five productive women in their prime age, then somebody is or are liable financially. criminal intent to homicides, then the criminal or criminals must pay for the crimes to the fullest extent of the law. this is a very horrible, painful event for the victims love ones, no amount of words can appease their intense emotional suffering, that can last a lifetime.

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