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Tuesday
May072013

Limo Fire Survivor Says Driver 'Didn't Do Anything' to Help

ABC News(SAN FRANCISCO) -- One of the women who survived a weekend limousine fire that killed a bride and four friends celebrating the bride’s nuptials, says the driver did too little to save her friends, which he has denied.

"When he get out from that car, he just opened the door, that's all he did," Nelia Arellano, 36, told ABC News affiliate KGO-TV. "I even ask the driver, 'Open the door, open the door.' He didn't do anything.

"I even ask him, 'Help me, help me,' because I bring out my head from that compartment and say, 'Help me,' so I could squeeze myself over there and slide myself," she said Monday.

But limousine Oliver Brown has a different story, saying that he did everything he could to save his passengers.

"I don't know what we could have done differently to save them," Brown told reporters.

Brown, 46, was driving a 1999 Lincoln Town Car limousine Saturday night when it burst into flames as it crossed the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge near San Francisco.

Arellano, one of the four surviving passengers, says she tapped on the partition to alert Brown to the inferno building in the back of the limo where she and eight other women were celebrating the recent nuptials of Neriza Fojas, who died in the blaze.

"I said, 'There's already a fire. Stop the car. Stop the car,'" Arellano told KGO.

Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle he believed the tapping on the partition was the women asking to smoke.

"Two cars helped us," Arellano recalled. "I said, 'I need to go back and save them,' but the man said, 'No, you cannot go back anymore.'"

Brown, who escaped unharmed, told a local television station that one of the survivors did go back to the limo and opened a door, possibly inflaming the fire by providing oxygen.

"The car was engulfed, completely engulfed," he said, noting there was no explosion or boom along with the fire.

Brown has said in interviews he believes the cause of the fire was electrical, noting it, "could have been smoldering for days." Authorities have said it is too soon to pinpoint the cause.

The victims' bodies were found huddled near the partition separating the driver's section of the car and the rear passenger area, suggesting they were trying to escape the fire, according to San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault.

Fojas, 31, and a second dead passenger, Michelle Estrera, were both nurses at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Calif.

Fojas was recently married in the United States and was planning a second ceremony in the Philippines next month. Fojas and her friends were on their way to the Crowne Plaza Hotel for her bridal shower, where her husband was waiting, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Another dead passenger, identified by KTVU as Jenny Balon, was a 39-year-old mother of two children.

The three survivors hospitalized were identified as Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose; Mary Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro. Arellano, 36, of Oakland, was treated and released.

California Highway Patrol Capt. Mike Maskarich said the limousine was over capacity Saturday night.

"This particular vehicle was licensed to carry eight or fewer passengers. As we know, there were nine people in this vehicle," he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio