SAN MATEO, Calif. — The bride was among five killed Saturday when a limousine carrying nine women to a bridal shower burst into flames on the San Mateo-Hayward bridge, authorities said. Four of the women and the driver escaped the fire inside the 1999 Lincoln Town Car as it was burning on the westbound side of the bridge around 10:05 p.m. But according to her grieving family, Neriza Fojas of Fresno, who was to be married next month in the Philippines, didn't make it out in time. "She is everything," said her brother-in-law Joseph Bersamin of Honolulu, Hawaii through tears. "She is so nice to everyone." Fojas had already married her husband, but the couple planned a ceremony and reception for family on June 19.
The other victims' names won't likely be released until Monday because the coroner needs dental records to confirm the identities of the severely burned women. Two of the survivors were in critical condition at a San Jose hospital Sunday, the condition of two others was not immediately available. Police said the driver walked away unhurt. A dispatcher for Limo Stop, the Town Car's operator, said the company is cooperating with the California Highway Patrol's investigation. "We are very shocked," said Limo Stop dispatcher Pam Kaur. "We are cooperating with the police." She said she didn't have any further information about how the fire might have ignited and messages left for the company CEO Kultar Singh were not immediately returned. It wasn't clear what sparked the fire, but it seems to have started in the rear of the vehicle and then spread quickly. The driver managed to pull over the limo, but only four of the passengers were able to escape, police said. Kaur said she wasn't aware of any problems with the car. Early Sunday authorities released the names of those who survived: driver Orville Brown, 46, of San Jose, who was uninjured; and passengers Mary G. Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; Nelia Arrellano, 36, of Oakland; Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro and Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose. Loyola and Desguia remained hospitalized Sunday in critical condition at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, said center spokeswoman Joy Alexiou. San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said the limo picked up the women in Oakland and was taking them to the Crowne Plaza hotel on Chess Drive in Foster City as part of a bridal shower. The bride was killed in the flames, but the coroner's office will perform an autopsy before determining the final cause of death. Two of the four women who escaped were taken to Stanford Hospital and two others were taken to San Jose. All four are being treated for smoke inhalation and burns. According to records from the California Public Utility Commission, which regulates limo companies, Limo Stop was licensed and insured. It was not immediately clear if the company had been cited for previous safety problems. All westbound lanes of the highway were closed for several hours Saturday evening, though one lane was reopened about 1 a.m. with officials still on the scene investigating.