SAN FRANCISCO - A coroner investigating the deaths of a recent bride and four others killed in a limousine fire as they were heading to a bachelorette party says their badly-burned bodies were found near the partition that separates the driver from the passengers.
San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault says that suggests the women tried to use the window opening to escape the fast-moving fire that began in the back of the limo.
Foucrault calls it the worst fatalities he's witnessed in his time as coroner.
California Highway Patrol Capt. Mike Maskarich said at a news conference on Monday that the vehicle was listed by the state Public Utilities Commission for eight or fewer passengers, but had nine. He did not comment on whether the overcrowding may have been a factor in the women's deaths.
Authorities will need dental records to confirm the identities of the four unnamed victims, according to MercuryNews.com. Their names likely won't be released until Monday at the earliest.
Four other women passengers were injured and taken to two medical centers to be treated for smoke inhalation and burns. They managed to get out of the vehicle after it came to a stop on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, California Highway Patrol officer Art Montiel told The Associated Press.
The injured, all from California, are Mary Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; Nelia Arrellano, 36, of Oakland; Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro; and Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose.
The Associated Press reported that Desguia and Loyola were listed in critical condition, according to Joy Alexiou, a spokeswoman for Valley Medical Center. The condition of Arrellano, who was taken to another hospital, was not known.
The driver of the vehicle, Orville Brown, 46, of San Jose, escaped uninjured.
Brown says he at first misunderstood what one of the passengers in the back was saying when she complained about smelling smoke. He told the San Francisco Chronicle that with the music 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."
The fire broke out late Saturday night as the Lincoln Town Car crossed the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge on the south end of the bay.
Limo Stop was the 1999 Lincoln Towncar operator, MercuryNews.com reports. Quoting San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault, the news site says the limo picked up the women in Oakland and was taking them to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City for a bachelorette party.
The blaze occurred around 10 p.m. Saturday on the bridge, which connects San Mateo and Alameda counties about 20 miles southeast of San Francisco.
Five occupants became trapped, while the four others who suffered injuries managed to get out after the vehicle came to a stop on the bridge, the patrol said.
The patrol said smoke started coming out of the rear of the limo, and the driver pulled over as the vehicle quickly became engulfed in flames. Officers were trying to determine the cause of the blaze, which wasn't the result of an accident.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)