Group of elderly women escape limo fire in Walnut Creek

June 10, 2013 12:21:04 PM PDT
Ten women, the majority 90 and older, escaped a limo fire Sunday morning. It happened in Rossmoor in Walnut Creek as the women were heading to a birthday party.

ABC7 News has an exclusive interview with one of the women who escaped. She says the group was well aware of the deadly limo fire that happened on the San Mateo Bridge last month, and that's why they were so grateful that this limo wasn't moving or on the freeway when it caught fire.

"We looked and there was white smoke coming from there," said Mary Chapman.

Chapman was pointing to the area in a charred 2008 Lincoln town car limousine that burst into flames at 11:30 a.m. There were 10 women in the idling limo on Skycrest Drive, most were over 90-years-old. Chapman says they smelled smoke and seconds later there were flames. She is still visibly shaking.

"It's very fresh, because when I looked out there were red flames all over the place and black smoke, and now you can see the result," she said.

Chapman says she and a younger caretaker took control when they were told to get out of the car by the driver.

"The three of us that we thought were more able bodied, we got out first so we could help the other ladies, they were on walkers, they were on canes," Chapman said.

All of the women got out safely. They were headed to a birthday party in Sonoma, for a 90-year-old Rossmoor woman, when the fire broke out.

Claudus Oliveira owns TownCar SF, which operates this limo.

"This was a fire that happened, an electrical fire," he said. "It's a manufacturer defect."

Oliveira says the limo is 3-years-old and has been inspected and maintained. He's well aware of what happened on the San Mateo Bridge May 4, and says he's concerned with maintenance.

"I'm speechless, because this is a new car," he said. "You can see my tires, brand new tires, I keep great records of the cars."

Chapman says she thanks the quick work of the limo driver for saving everyone's lives. She doesn't want this to happen again.

"I just think there should be laws to regulate limousines just like there are for trucks," she said.

We're told all the women left in good shape. They took alternate transportation to the party in Sonoma. It's a party they're all happy to be able to attend.

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