Report: Limo driver on phone before fatal fire on San Mateo Bridge

July 21, 2013 6:53:03 PM PDT
The estranged wife of the man driving a limousine that caught on fire on the San Mateo Bridge says he was on the phone moments before five of his passengers were killed.

Our media partner, the San Jose Mercury News, talked to Rachel "Raquel" Hernandez-Brown for her first public comments about the May 7 fire. She said her husband, Orville Brown, turned the music up to drown out their shouting match while he was driving.

"The music was really loud. And I kept yelling, 'I can't hear you. Turn it down,'" Hernandez-Brown told the newspaper. "I said, 'You're not paying attention.' You know, like, get off the phone. Stop calling me."

One of the nine nurses in the vehicle said she banged on the partition to warn the driver that the back of the limo was filling with smoke. Brown told authorities that he initially misunderstood the warning as a request to smoke a cigarette and kept driving.

Hernandez-Brown said he called moments after getting out of the limo to tell her it was ablaze.

"He was continuously calling me back," she told the Mercury News. "I said, 'Well, what made you call me first?' He said, 'Well, I don't know, I didn't know who else to call.'"

The couple has four children and separated about a month before the fire on the San Mateo Bridge. Hernandez-Brown called police hours before the blaze to report that Brown had kicked and dented her car during an argument. He had left the scene before police arrived.

We tried to contact Brown and his lawyer for their reaction to her comments, but neither returned our calls.

Prosecutors say the investigation is complete. The district attorney is now considering how to move forward.

The nine nurses had hired the 1999 Lincoln Town Car to celebrate the recent wedding of Neriza Fojas, one of the five women who died.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)


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