REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — A stretch limousine that burst into flames on a San Francisco Bay bridge, killing five women inside, was carrying one too many passengers, investigators said Monday.
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, California Highway Patrol Capt. Mike Maskarich said. He did not comment on whether the overcrowding may have been a factor in the deaths.
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, and the vehicle has not yet been inspected, Maskarich said.
The Lincoln Town Car was packed with young women celebrating a girls’ night out with a newlywed bride when it went up in flames Saturday night on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. The driver and four women were able to escape. The newlywed woman was among the dead.
The driver, Orville Brown, said at first he misunderstood what a passenger was saying when she knocked on the partition and complained about smelling smoke. With the music turned up, he initially thought the woman was asking if she could smoke.
He helped four of the surviving women escape through the partition. One of the women ran around to the passenger door on the back side of the limo, but by then it was engulfed in flames.