Peninsula News

Survivor believes limo driver could have done more

Monday, May 06, 2013
Nelia Arellano survived a nightmare when she escaped a fire that claimed the lives of five of her friends. John Balon Limo driver Orville Brown Limousine fire captured on cell phone Foster City Fire Department Chief Michael Keefe, right, speaks next to Redwood City California Highway Patrol Commander Mike Maskarich at a news conference at the California Highway Patrol headquarters in Redwood City, Calif., Monday, May 6, 2013. CHP update on investigation into fatal limo fire Neriza Fojas Limo burst into flames on San Mateo bridge killing five female passengers

Nelia Arellano survived a nightmare when she escaped a fire inside a limo that claimed the lives of five of her friends. As thick black smoke and flames swallowed the car, Arellano pushed panic aside to do what others couldn't or wouldn't.

"We saw smoke at the back of the car where one of our friends was sitting," Arellano, 36, told ABC7 News. "All of us probably move to the front towards the front because the fire came from the back."

Arellano says she was knocked on the partition that separated her and her girlfriends from the driver.

"He doesn't want to listen. I told you, 'There is smoke' and the fire came out, there is already a fire. 'Stop the car, stop the car!'"

She believes the driver could have done more.

"When he stop the car, he get out from the car, he just get out from the car," she said.

Arellano says she was the first to crawl through divider separating the driver from the cabin of the limousine, but she became stuck and called to the driver for help.

"When he get out from that car, he just opened the door, that's all he did. I even ask him, 'Help me, help me,' because I bring out my head from that compartment and say 'Help me,' so I could squeeze myself over there and slide myself," Arellano said. "I even ask the driver, 'Open the door, open the door!' He didn't do anything."

Arellano instantly decided to act, running back to the burning vehicle to help her friends.

"When I ran back, Jasmine [Desguia] was saying, 'I cannot get out, help me, I cannot get out.' So I tried to pull her out," Arellano said. "I tried to check if I can pull out one more, but it's already too dark and I can't see anything anymore."

The women are all from the Philippines and became close friends after meeting each other in the United States while working at Fruitvale Healthcare Center.

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