With the music turned up, he initially thought the woman was asking if she could smoke. Seconds later, he said, the women knocked again, this time screaming, “Smoke, smoke!” and “Pull over,” Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle.
He helped the four survivors escape through the partition. One of the women ran around to a rear passenger door, but by then the vehicle was engulfed in flames.
“When she opened that back door, I knew it wasn’t a good scene,” Brown said. “I figured with all that fire that they were gone, man. There were just so many flames. Within maybe 90 seconds, the car was fully engulfed.”
California Highway Patrol Commander Mike Maskarich said 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.
He said it was too early in the investigation to say whether overcrowding may have been a factor in the deaths. Investigators have conducted preliminary interviews with the survivors and the driver, but more in-depth interviews, as well as an inspection of the gutted vehicle, were still needed.
It will take a few weeks for investigators to piece together “some semblance of answers for the tragic events that just occurred,” Maskarich said.
Debris or any other objects on the roadway do not appear to have been a factor, he said.
“We are devastated by this incident,” Foster City Fire Chief Michael Keefe said.
A spokesman for the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates limos, said Monday that the limo owner, a company called Limo Stop, is licensed and has shown evidence of liability insurance. The company has seven vehicles with a seating capacity of up to eight passengers listed with the CPUC. It has not been the target of any previous enforcement action. Limo Stop received its permit in June 9, 2006, the agency said.