The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

May 7, 2013

Limo driver: Fire took three minutes to claim five lives

(Continued)

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. —

The women were celebrating the wedding of a newlywed friend, Neriza Fojas, who was among the dead.

Fojas and another of the fatalities, Michelle Estrera, were nurses at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. The remaining three victims have not been identified.

The medical center's CEO, Jack Chubb, said in a statement Monday that Fojas and Estrera were outstanding nurses, loved by their patients, colleagues and staff.

"Both were good friends, stellar nurses and excellent mentors who served as preceptors to new nurses," he said. "We'll dearly miss these two special people who have touched our lives."

A relative of Fojas said the young nurse was preparing to get her master's degree and was planning a large second wedding in the Philippines.

Christina Kitts said Monday that Fojas lived in Hawaii while she reviewed for her nursing exam, then took a job in Oakland for two years before moving to Fresno, where she had been a nurse at Community Regional Medical Center for a year.

Four survivors were being treated at hospitals. They were identified as Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose; Mary Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; Nelia Arrellano, 36, of Oakland; and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro.

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.

California Public Utilities Commission spokesman Terrie Prosper said Monday that commission is looking into whether the operator of the limo, a company called Limo Stop, willfully misrepresented the seating capacity to the agency. If so, Limo Stop could be penalized $7,500 for each day it was in violation, she said. The CPUC regulates limos.

Maskarich 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.

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