A weekend party ended tragically when a newlywed bride and four friends died in a limo fire on the San Mateo Bridge.
The bride, 31-year-old Neriza Fojas, was one of five limo passengers who were unable to escape from the fire-engulfed vehicle. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the fire started just after 10 p.m. Saturday in the back of the Lincoln Town car. The driver, 46-year-old Orville Brown, pulled over allowing four women to escape, the fire trapping the other passengers inside.
The remaining women attempted to exit through the driver’s 3-by-1.5 foot window. Emergency workers found Fojas and the four trapped women huddled together, the report said.
“This is the one of the most horrific things I’ve seen in 21 years with this office,” San Mateo County medical examiner Robert Foucrault said on Sunday. “Looking at it, they were on top of each other and doing what they could to get out."
The victims who died "were either trying to escape or huddled together for protection,” he said.
The survivors were Jasmine Desguia, 34; Amalia P. Loyola, 48; Nelia Rafael Arellano, 36; and Mary Grace Guardiano, 42. The women were being treated for burns and smoke inhalation; the limo driver wasn't hurt, authorities said.
Fojas, a registered nurse, had recently married in the U.S. and was planning a second ceremony in her native Philippines in June. Fojas unidentified husband was waiting for her at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Foster City, Calif., on Saturday night, her sister, Rosalyn Bersamin, said.
“She was a hard worker, a loving sister,” Bersamin said.
The mother of one survivor, Mary Grace Guardiano, said her daughter was deeply saddened by the night's tragic turn of events.
“She’s ok, but it is very scary. Thank god she survived," Rosita Guardiano said. "I’ve been crying all morning. My daughter is very sad and crying, too. This was supposed to be a happy day.”
The blaze is still under investigation and authorities remain unsure of the source of the fire, according to an ABC News report on Monday.
“It does not appear that it [the limo] was involved in a collision, so it just appears that it was a vehicle fire,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel.