Death in 90 seconds amid blasting music


REDWOOD CITY, California—First came the tapping. Over the blasting music, limousine driver Orville Brown heard someone in the backseat knock on the partition behind him, saying something about smoke. No smoking allowed, he told the crowd of partying women, including a newlywed woman from the Philippines.

Then the taps turned to urgent knocks, and someone screamed “Smoke, smoke” and “Pull over!”

In just a few fleeting moments, five of the women celebrating a girls’ night out were killed by flames that overtook the luxury car with terrifying speed.

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 already too late.

“I knew it wasn’t a good scene. I figured with all that fire that they were gone, man,” Brown said. “There were just so many flames. Within maybe 90 seconds, the car was fully engulfed.”

From the first tap on the window until the rear of the car became an inferno couldn’t have taken more than three minutes, Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Searching for answers

Authorities searched for answers on Monday, hoping to learn what sparked the blaze and why five of the victims could not escape the fast-spreading flames.

The women who were killed in the Saturday night blaze were found pressed up against the 3-foot by 1 ½-foot partition, apparently because smoke and fire kept them from the rear exits of the extended passenger compartment.

The position of the bodies suggested they were trying to get away from the fire, said San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault.

The women were celebrating the wedding of a newlywed friend, Neriza Fojas, who was among the dead.

The 31-year-old 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.

In the Philippines, Neriza Fojas’ mother, Sonya, broke into tears during an interview with local TV network GMA News in Tarlac, where the family lives. The news report said she learned of the tragedy from media reports.

“How painful, how painful what happened,” she said.

Outstanding nurses

US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. expressed condolences to the Fojas family in a Twitter message.

The medical center’s CEO, Jack Chubb, said in a statement on Monday that Fojas and Estrera were outstanding nurses, loved by their patients, colleagues and staff.

“Both were good friends, stellar nurses and excellent mentors who served as preceptors to new nurses,” he said. “We’ll dearly miss these two special people who have touched our lives.”

A relative of Fojas said the young nurse was preparing to get her master’s degree and was planning a large second wedding in the Philippines.

Christina Kitts said on Monday that Fojas lived in Hawaii while she reviewed for her nursing exam, then took a job in Oakland for two years before moving to Fresno, where she had been a nurse at Community Regional Medical Center for a year.

Three survivors hospitalized were identified as Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose; Mary Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro.

Nelia Arellano, 36, of Oakland, who was treated and released, told KGO-TV about the terrifying events.

With a cut visible on her face, an emotional Arellano said she yelled at the driver to stop the car, but he “didn’t want to listen.”

Driver did nothing 

When Brown finally did stop, Arellano said he did nothing to help the women get out of the burning car after he exited.

Brown told KGO that at first he misunderstood what one of the passengers was saying when she knocked on the partition and talked about smoke. And when the panicked woman knocked a second time and yelled at him to stop, he said he pulled over and all four survivors escaped through the partition. But he said the passenger compartment was quickly engulfed in flames.

“It spread so fast,” he said.

Brown said he believed it was an electrical fire. “It could have been smoldering for days,” he said, noting there was no explosive boom.

California Highway Patrol Cmdr. Mike Maskarich said the state Public Utilities Commission had authorized the vehicle to carry eight or fewer passengers, but it had nine on the night of the deadly fire. Maskarich said it was too early in the investigation to say whether overcrowding may have been a factor in the deaths.

Commission spokesperson Terrie Prosper said on Monday that the agency was looking into whether the operator of the limo, a licensed company called Limo Stop, willfully misrepresented the seating capacity to the agency. If so, Limo Stop could be penalized $7,500 for each day it was in violation.

The CPUC requires that all carriers have a preventive maintenance program and maintain a daily vehicle inspection report, Prosper said. Carriers also certify that they are or have enrolled in a safety education and training program, she said.

Fire extinguishers

Prosper said requirements for emergency exits only apply to buses, and limousines are not required to have fire extinguishers.

Joan Claybrook, the top federal auto-safety regulator under President Jimmy Carter, said the stretch limousine industry is poorly regulated because the main agency that oversees car safety doesn’t have enough money to prioritize investigating the small businesses that modify limos after they leave the assembly line.

“I think the oversight is pretty lousy, because the modifications are so individualistic, and there are not that many companies out there that do this. Mostly, they are mom-and-pop operations,” said Claybrook, a former administrator at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who previously led consumer group Public Citizen.

Instead, the agency tends to focus more on problems with new cars and major recalls, she said.

US Department of Transportation data show five people died in three separate stretch limo accidents in 2010, and 21 people died in another three stretch limo accidents in 2011.

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  • Hey_Dudes

    That’s OK no need having fire extinguishers in stretch or regular limos they’re just too bothersome. Just let the passengers die from burns in case something goes wrong right kanoy?

    • kanoy


    • kanoy

      Austrian cable car fire kills about 170. Most of the skiers and snowboarders managed to escape the car but died from smoke inhalation inside the tunnel.

      A car fire inside a Lake Barrington garage killed a resident Saturday morning, officials said.

      A moving car caught fire on the Cross Island Parkway shortly before 7 a.m. Tuesday, killing a driver who has yet to be identified.

      Thirty-two people were killed Monday after a sleeper car of passenger train caught fire early Monday near Nellore, Indian officials

  • dennis_genio

    I suspect the cause of fire “within 90 seconds” comes from air! First of all,the incident happened this month of May,Kung mainit sa California this month,so they´re probably used airconditioning system inside that Limocar.Pwedeng hindi gasoline kasi malakas ang amoy ng gasolina,sa una pa lang eh ma-aamoy mo na! That can be a “combusting gas form” for example,Ether or Nitrious oxide. Ether is an anesthetic agent that paralized our sense of smell but a combusting object! Kung may gasoline leak naman eh malamang alam na agad ng driver yan coz the Driver´s cokpit indicator will give him a warning sign if there is any problem!

  • PurpleDaisy13

    Even despite 90 seconds of smoke and fire from the the time of the initial knocking on the partition window to the limo stopping, there was an additional 300 seconds thereafter that Nelia Arellano used productively to help save more lives.

    The driver wasted 50 seconds trying to stop the limo when there is plenty of emergency shoulder lane space on either side of the road on the San Mateo Bridge. It only takes 10 seconds to pull over where other cars following behind can clearly see the fiery rear end of the limo and yielding for the limo to pull over.

    While the driver wasted an additional 5 minutes trying to press the right buttons to dial 9-1-1 after he left the limo when he could have used those 300 seconds to help Nelia Arellano pull survivors out of the partition more easier and faster. Instead he bailed out and left Nelia Arellano to rescue them on her own.

    • kanoy



      • PurpleDaisy13

        Kanoy, we all know Orville Brown is your brother man…but you’ve got to admit, he’s one BIG COWARD.

        Even a small petite female had bigger balls than your brother from another mother by proving there was still plenty of time to open doors, pull more passengers out, and save 3 more lives.

        Don’t bother replying with…”is being a coward a crime?” either Kanoy. Orville Brown was employed as part of Carrier Service with an inherent “DUTY to RESCUE their patrons” in the event of an emergency. Instead, your brother man did NOTHING, and just left the limo and the women to struggle to survive like a selfish pathetic coward.

        And when the dust settled he fabricated a story trying to claim to be the hero for helping the women that managed to get out of the limo.

      • Crazy_horse101010

        purple weed were you there because no one else knows yet until the investigation. you are like your commie buddy always wanting to stir the pot.and ranting away. one day you are commie next day. your bragging about being a american which is a bunch of crap

      • PurpleDaisy13

        re: “no one else knows”

        crazy_horse_stripAddict, you must be the only foreigner in Phils who doesn’t know and hasn’t heard the interview of Nelia Arellano, the brave survivor who helped herself and her 3 friends out through the partition window without any help from the driver.

      • Crazy_horse101010

        purple weed meth addict i read it but you say live in america you .. yeah right. nothing is official until there is a investigation you should know that stupid. so quit lying and saying you live in america because you dont know any of the laws about due process. a person is innocent until proven quilty. do you understand that or should i make it plainer for you, and again quit lying. and what the hell is a strip addict. something you dreamed up in your drug induced dreams. what a loser. haw haw haw. .

      • PurpleDaisy13

        The Official Investigation shall reveal that…

        a) The maximum occupancy limit for the vehicle was 8 passengers. But Orville Brown, the limo driver clearly violated these policies and permitted 9 passengers into his limo.

        b) A witness who saw the limo even before it caught on fire as it was parked on the shoulder lane while the driver was outside using his phone pointed out that he noticed the rear end of the limo was unusually very low.

        c) Experts said a low-riding vehicle can produce sparks, potentially contributing to a fire.

        Put A, B, and C together and you get an overloaded limo whereby it’s shocks were meant to only support a maximum of 8 passengers but forced to accept a 9 passenger-weight causing the rear exhaust pipe or catalytic converter to create sparks that could ignite the fiberglass underneath the limo which could burn hotter than gasoline (Alex Wong, an investigation expert in vehicle fires pointed out)

        Meanwhile, Orville Brown, the limo driver disagrees with the policy and makes the embarrassing public statement:

        “a limo could hold more than that, to be honest with you.” He added: “I don’t make the rules I’m just a driver.” – Orville Brown, limo driver.

        All the pieces are coming together while a number of law offices are already eager to take their case so they can prosecute the negligent and irresponsible driver.

        re: “you dont know any of the laws about due process. a person is innocent until proven quilty”

        Everyone knows that crazy_horse. Did I ever say that the driver is “guilty”? No

        However, I did say that the driver shall be sued and “charged” with Involuntary Manslaughter as he lied about having no time to save the women when in fact a witness caught him on the phone while the limo was only smoking from the rear end and had not bursted into flames yet.

        The driver had more than enough time to help pull his passengers to safety but figured that pulling out his phone was higher priority.

        And if it weren’t for the quick-thinking survivor, all 8 of his passengers would have died.

        And don’t talk about America crazy_horse_stripAddict – you don’t live here. I can cross San Mateo Bridge any day I please, while you’re now a foreigner who has abandoned America and now reside in Philippines where your partner keeps you outside shopping stores like a dog so cashiers don’t see a foreigner like you and decide to bump up the prices.

        re: “and what the hell is a strip addict.”

        crazy horse, you obviously don’t live in America…there’s a popular strip club in the metro area of san francisco called crazy horse idiot.

  • boybakal

    The driver ignored the plea….that ‘s the point.

    • kanoy


      • $18209031

        Mga trauma nurses mga ito so they are used to emergency situations. Most likely they keep banging the partition window but the black driver ignored them . Kaya ang driver was the main cause of the deaths. If he acted right away he could have save all of them. RIPs

      • kanoy

        stupid drunk nurses never turned off radio now they get buried gangnam style,,,dumb they got a refrigerator full of bottles smack the driver with 1 pour the booze on him he will stop immediately screw tapping bust the tv toss it through the 1 1/2 x 3 window grab his ear twist pull his hair stick a nail file in his ear up his nose grab his shirt cause a wreck or die you dumb broads

      • $18209031

        HEheheehehe, gangnam koreigook style !! Yeah, this crzy dance moves is so viral bs !!

      • Crazy_horse101010

        more racists remarks commie and you call me one what a joke you are hypocrite comrade

  • Guest

    Fully engulfed limo in under a minute and a half means the materials like carpeting must have not met the fed regulations.

    • kanoy

      get 9 drunk women sloshing booze all over the carpet as they talk with their hands and you got a molitive cocktail at your feet

  • $18209031

    Lahing negro ang driver ng
    limousine. Mr O Brown pero bl_ ckazz pala. Can you trust what this guy
    is saying ? Not one bit. He was a slowpaw azzhole when he could had
    acted immediately. He had the wheels and the controls to stop that
    vehicel .There was no need for him to dilly dally . Safety is paramount

    He is tall and a big man but has a small brain, an idiot. He
    could have acted right away and save many lives. He was not in tune to
    his responsibilities as a driver and ensuring the safety of all his
    passengers. Yamoyamo pa magsasalita sa camera , dios ko po.

    He ignored the pleas of the passenger ladies who were already
    scared to death and choking from the toxic smoke inside the passenger
    side.. Kaya patay ang labas nito.


    • kanoy

      in no court in the world…..other than military court….is being a coward a crime he made a choice,,,,me or them….quite a no brainer with so many ungrateful egotists thinking the world owes them something

    • Crazy_horse101010

      curious how much is china paying you fo spreading hate. in ever forum is the old bs hatred of blacks hatred of whites hatred of filipnos,. the only one you dont have hatred for is the chinese. you dont care what the topic is as long as you spew hatred. its all a smokescreen anyway to divert attention from the chinese poachers. as for a idiot i suggest you look in the mirror. it was a tragedy that happen but you have to make it into another racial statement..

      • $18209031

        MangKabayo, im curious how much you chupapeng the wthite and black ccks just to be classified as honorary whties when you are as brown as an asian macaque? If it has anything to do wth China , you spew antiChinese shzt . Nothing comes good from your mouth but only generate antiCHinese hate. Your moronic ramblings that Chinese is bad, and anything of Europe , America and Kayuumangmang nation are of good report. You re such a turd , a smelly cloud of stench.

      • Crazy_horse101010

        funny coming from someone who crawled out of a toilet when he was born. i dont hate chinese i hate commies period. and racists more.and sorry im not brown we were vikings heard of them comrade. i have never said the words chinks gooks like racists do. remember commies. ive known chinese in americaa and we were friends along with japanese. anyway commie azz hole lover grow up go look for your fake pandolin ranches. racists azz hole.its idiots like you that i even sat anything about coomie, because of your brainwashed ranting is sickening. so go blow your masters comrade then get a one wat ticket to china because no one here will miss you

      • Crazy_horse101010

        oops pangolin

      • $18209031

        Heheehehe, whats a viking azz doing in Pino nation? Trying to be a non brownie, ehhh? Yhou wanna eat some rotten shark meat ehh? China can export dead sharks to satisfy you weirdo azzes of the frozen north.

        Viking my azz, youre just another smelly monkey azz.

      • Crazy_horse101010

        you wouldnt know a viking if he bit you on the azz. im not chinese so i dont rape the planet of sharks just for some tasteless soup. you got the wrong people again comrade, which is nothing new. why would i try to be a non brownie. i dont care what the skin color is and not obsessed with it like you. prove my family wasnt vikings. put your money where your mouth is. comrade. monkey brains. you cant . to bad there wasnt any brains in the afterbirth that your parents saved, but als there was none. your brains are the same size as your dick microscopic. HAW HAWHAW LOSER COMMIE

      • jseesus

        pepeng kabayo, dapat sa iyo igapos sa loob ng limousine kasama ni nognog at silaban para mag sama kayong mga hinayupaks na trying hard maging americanized na fourth class citizen naman, nauna pa sa inyo ang mga assztec mexicans…LOL…

    • Cano Manuel

      What the heck is your problem? The world is better off without racists such as you.

      • $18209031

        Racist your azz, gurl. Look at the signs of the tragedy that had unfolded. ARe you kidding yourself? Face the truth. THe driver fck up big time.

      • PurpleDaisy13

        Racist or not, the driver was an absolute dumb fck and a selfish coward to top it off.

  • noypisiTED

    Subject the limo driver, Orville Brown, to a psychiatric exam and who knows one might stumble into a dark secret hidden in his mind. It’s kind of weird if not idiotic not to sense anything odd or unusual in the car one drives, much less not glance on the rear and side mirrors and see that the tail end of the car emits smoke and not think of it as something strange. I find the driver’s behavior eerie.

    • $18209031

      Thats good observation . I do sense this driver have no feelings of remorse. He s behaving like its normal . His emotions dont show empathy and remorse. This blackazz was the last man who could have saved the ladies in that crucial period. Why did he shrugged off the pleas of the passengers? He is an idiot.

      • PurpleDaisy13

        He’s not a man. He’s a mouse trying to reflect a manly image.

  • PurpleDaisy13

    Newsflash: A witness (Russel Jeong) who drove past the parked limo was surprised to see that the limo had parked on the shoulder lane WITHOUT emergency flashing lights on, with just “SMOKE” (No FIRE), while the limo driver was standing outside using his phone.


    The limo DRIVER, Orville Brown, lied about the limo catching on fire in just 90 seconds after stopping the vehicle. The driver had plenty of time to save ALL his passengers, instead he got out to use his phone.

    Absolute dishonesty by typical cowards who deserve more than just “Involuntary Manslaughter” charges.

  • Rene Pedro C. Baltasar

    no matter the ethnicity of the victims, these deaths, untimely , tragic and senseless, could have been avoided by the driver Orville Brown, but he was too insensitive to their pleas, his inaction or lack thereof of any action, is nothing but criminal, am sure he heard them, am sure he could have done much much more, but yes people said he stood idly by as his passengers died a fiery death…their clothes catching fire, their hair bursting in flames, yes this Mr Brown did nothing even as he must have heard their screams…this will haunt him for the rest of his life, but I hope, in jail..he deserves to rot in jail

    • $18209031

      The black driver was inept. He was in his own little world during that fateful night.. He cared less what the screaming ladies as they pleaded at the top of their voices behind the partition window for him to stop !! Inspite of that he was focused on his four minutes of driving and to sit on his lazy azz afterwards doing nothing .

      That s how these limou drivers are only good for. They wanted to be given tips , thats all in their mind. But talking of safety of their passengers, that doesnt even cross his mind bec he is an idiot. A big tall man with a pea brain . African blacks are like that . They cannot think rationally when SHTF happens.

  • boybakal

    Death in 90 seconds amid blasting music….

    Blasting music, I don’t buy it.
    These women were nurses confined in the silence of the hospitals.
    They are not teen agers to be in blasting music, they are 30-40 years.
    The driver should be investigated…he is lying.

    • peach black

      they were celebrating. so what do you do when celebrating? mumble the Angelus with closed eyes and in utter, solemn silence?

    • kanoy


      NBC Bay Area spoke Monday night to two people considered experts in limos.

      Russell Mc McGillicuddy owns Air One Limousines in San Jose.

      McGillicuddy said the two doors in the limo that caught fire Saturday lock automatically when the limo was in park, and unlocking them may have proven too much in those terrifying moments. One of his limos has a third passenger area door in the front, which was not the case Saturday night.

      He noted one possibility for the source of the fire is a lit cigarette perhaps, tossed into the trash container in the trunk, which is accessible to passengers.

      Another possibility comes from Michael Ehline, an attorney specializing in limousine law.

      He wonders if the air bladders keeping the tires from scraping against the wheel wells in the 14-year-old limousine might have deflated.

      “What will happen is those rear tires can scrape against the rear wheel wells and remember tires are made out of petroleum products. Once it gets to flashpoint the tire will literally ignite and that heat build up next to that gas tank can actually ignite that gas tank,” Ehline said.

      The limousine that caught on fire was carrying nine women to a bridal party but it was only licensed to carry a maximum of eight passengers, the California Highway Patrol confirmed Monday.

      “Our report is merely fact-finding at this point,” CHP Capt. Mike Maskarich said.

      Both limo experts we talked to Monday night said however the fire started, it is clear who is responsible,the owner of the limousine company, LimoStop in San Jose.

    • kanoy

      These women were nurses confined in the silence of the hospitals.
      They are not teen agers to be in blasting music, they are 30-40 years.

      TRUTH>> All California licensed nurses to submit fingerprints
      Now, in a move that would affect a large number of FILIPINO nurses working in the state, the California Board of Registered Nursing voted in favor of requiring all licensed nurses to submit fingerprints.

      The board approved the emergency regulations Thursday, October 23.

      The unanimous vote by the board came after an LA Times and Propublica investigation found the California Board of Registered Nursing, the state’s nurse licensing board, allowed sex offenders, drug users and convicts to retain and renew their nursing permits.

      “Effective immediately, upon renewal of an Registered Nurse [RN] license, the Board will require licensees to indicate if they have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony during the last renewal period,” posted the California Board of Nursing on its website. “Convictions must be reported even if they have been, dismissed, reduced, or expunged.”

      The California Board of Nursing website added that violations of section 11368 of the Health and Safety Code (forged or altered prescriptions) must also be reported and that all traffic violations (under $300) involving alcohol, drugs, injury to persons, or providing false information must be reported.

      Investigators at the LA Times and Propublica, a nonprofit investigative news organization, reviewed and analyzed more than 2,000 cases involving complaints and disciplinary actions on nurses since 2002.

      The investigation found that in 115 recent cases the state did not pull a nurses license until that nurse racked up three or more criminal convictions.

      “In some cases, nurses with felony records continue to have spotless licenses—even while serving time behind bars,” reported the LA Times and Propublica.

      >>>>NOTE>>>One of the nurses highlighted in the Times and Propublica investigation was a FILAM who is currently serving a five-year sentence after pleading guilty to siphoning Medicare out of more than $3 million.

      Fil-Am nurse Haydee Parungao admitted in 2006 to billing Medicare for “hundreds of visits to Southern California patients that she never made, charging for visits while she was out of the country and while she was gambling at Southern California casinos.”

      “Yet according to the state of California, she is a nurse in good standing, free to work in any hospital or medical clinic,” reported the Times and Propublica.

      The Times and Propublica also found that the Board of Nursing continued to renew a man’s nursing license after he was imprisoned for attempted murder; a nurse who was charged with a DUI and suspended license; and a nurse from Calimesa who, according to the investigation, was in good standing “despite a felony conviction for lewd and lascivious acts with a child.”

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