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Bride killed limo fire: 5 killed in limo fire on way to bridal shower

Bride killed limo fire: 5 killed in limo fire on way to bridal shower, Five women died late Saturday when a limousine heading to a bridal shower burst into flames on the San Mateo Bridge, trapping the victims inside while the driver and four other women escaped. The woman for whom the bridal shower was being thrown was among those killed, her sister said Sunday.

She had recently married and had planned to return to her native Philippines for another ceremony next month. The limo was going west on the bridge at about 10 p.m. when smoke began pouring out of the rear passenger area, the California Highway Patrol said Sunday.

The driver managed to stop the car, and he and those in the front scrambled to safety. But the fire evidently spread so quickly that the rest of the occupants were unable to get out in time - the CHP said they died at the scene. Reports sfgate

Emergency crews extinguished the blaze before it engulfed the entire vehicle, but the rear of the white, 1999 Lincoln Town Car was left a charred ruin. "We don't know what caused the accident yet," said CHP Officer James Evans. "It wasn't a traffic collision, we do know that, but we are still investigating."

The four women who escaped the blaze were hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation, while the limousine's driver, 46-year-old Orville Brown of San Jose, was unhurt.

Relatives said Sunday that Brown didn't know how the fire had started and had been alerted to the blaze when one of the women reported smelling smoke. Brown helped some of the survivors to safety but was unable to save the women in the back, relatives said.

The dead women were all in their 30s and 40s, the CHP said. They included 31-year-old Neriza Fojas of Fresno, for whom the bridal shower was to be thrown at the Crowne Plaza Hotal in Foster City, said her sister, Roslyn Bersamin.

Fojas, a registered nurse at the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, was married recently in the United States, said her sister, who lives in Hawaii. The couple were planning to travel to her native Philippines next month and hold another ceremony before her family June 19, Bersamin said. "She was a hard worker, a loving sister," a sobbing Bersamin said.

Fojas' husband was staying at the Foster City hotel, Bersamin said. She said she did not know how the limousine fire had started and was waiting for an update from law enforcement investigators.

The San Mateo County coroner's office said none of the names of the other four women killed in the fire would be released before Monday. However, a spokeswoman at Community Medical Centers, parent company of the Fresno hospital, said at least one other employee may have been involved in the accident.

The women had attended a birthday party in Alameda earlier in the evening, said Rosita Guardiano, 73, mother of one of the survivors, 42-year-old Mary Grace Guardiano of Alameda.

Rosita Guardiano said she did not know how the fire started. Her daughter, who goes by Grace, is in intensive care being treated for smoke inhalation, she said.

"She's OK, but it is very scary," the mother said. "Thank God she survived. I've been crying all morning.

"My daughter is very sad and crying, too. This was supposed to be such a happy day." Grace Guardiano had worked with Fojas earlier and is now a nurse at Crown Bay Nursing Home in Alameda, her mother said.

A supervisor at the nursing home, Dina Sanchez, said she and the staff were "all shocked, but incredibly relieved to find out that Grace is OK."

Guardiano's mother said her daughter was hospitalized with another survivor, Nelia Arrellano, 36, of Oakland, Arrellano just moved to the Bay Area from the Philippines, Rosita Guardiano said.

Authorities said all the surviving women were being treated for moderate injuries.

"Grace told us, 'Don't worry, don't worry,' " her mother said.

The survivors were being treated at Stanford Medical Center and Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

Besides Guardiano and Arrellano, they were identified as 34-year-old Jasmine Desguia of San Jose and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro. Sanchez said Loyola works at another convalescent hospital in Oakland.

The limo was owned by Limo Stop Inc. Its owner, Kultar Singh, said Sunday, "I'm very, very saddened" by the accident, but declined to comment further about what happened.

Singh said he has owned Limo Stop for about seven years. State records show that the company's license is valid and up to date.

San Francisco Chronicle staff writers Trapper Byrne, Will Kane and Ellen Huet contributed to this report.

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