SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A newlywed bride was celebrating a night out with friends when the limousine they were in erupted in flames on a San Francisco Bay bridge, killing the bride and four other women who were trapped inside and injuring four who escaped, authorities and her family said Sunday.
The driver, who was not hurt, told investigators he was driving the women on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge Saturday night when one of them complained of smoke inside the passenger compartment, San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said.
He said he pulled over, got out, and saw the back of the 1999 Lincoln Town Car fully engulfed in flames, Foucrault said.
By the time firefighters rushed to the scene and put out the fire, authorities found five badly burned bodies huddled near the partition that separates the driver from the passengers.
"My guess would be they were trying to get away from the fire and use that window opening as an escape route," Foucrault said.
He said other motorists helped three women get out of the rear right door, and a fourth woman managed to squeeze through the partition.
Investigators didn't release details about the accident Sunday, but scheduled a news conference Monday.
The San Mateo Fire Department was looking into the cause of the fire, while the coroner's office was working with the California Highway Patrol to determine whether a crime occurred.
"We don't believe there is," Foucrault said.
Relatives told the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News that one of the dead was Neriza Fojas, 31, a registered nurse from Fresno who recently wed and was planning to travel to her native Philippines next month to hold another ceremony before family. Her friends in the limousine were fellow nurses.
The driver said he picked the women up in Oakland and was taking them across the bridge to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City. Fojas' sister, Rosalyn Bersamin, told the Chronicle that after a night out on the town, Fojas and her friends were heading to the hotel to party with her husband.
"She was a hard worker, a loving sister," a sobbing Bersamin said.
Aerial video shot after the incident showed about one-third of the back half of the limousine had been scorched by the fire. Its taillights and bumper were gone and it appeared to be resting on its rims, but the remainder of the vehicle didn't appear to be damaged.