SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — When one of the nine women in his limousine complained about smoke, Orville Brown pulled to the side of a San Francisco Bay bridge to check. As he got out, the back of the vehicle became engulfed in flames.
A newlywed bride and eight of her friends were still inside, but passersby quickly pulled three from the burning Lincoln Town Car late Saturday night. And one woman managed to reach safety by squeezing through the partition from the passenger section to the driver's compartment, Brown told authorities.
But five others, including the bride whose marriage they were celebrating on a girls' night out, became trapped.
The five were found dead as firefighters doused the vehicle — all huddled near the partition, apparently unable to squeeze through.
"My guess would be they were trying to get away from the fire and use that window opening as an escape route," said San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault, who also relayed some of the comments the driver made to investigators.
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 if anything criminal occurred.
"We don't believe there" was, Foucrault said.