The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

May 7, 2013

Limo driver: Fire took three minutes to claim five lives

(Continued)

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. —

It will take a few weeks for investigators to piece together "some semblance of answers for the tragic events that just occurred," Maskarich said.

Debris or any other objects on the roadway do not appear to have been a factor, he said.

By the time the Foster City Fire Department reached the blaze, almost 12 minutes after the first 911 call, there was no hope of saving anyone.

"We are devastated by this incident," Foster City Fire Chief Michael Keefe said.

Prosper, the CPUC spokeswoman, said Limo Stop is licensed and has shown evidence of liability insurance. The company has seven vehicles with a seating capacity of up to eight passengers listed with the commission, and it has not been the target of any previous enforcement action.

The CPUC requires that all carriers have a preventive maintenance program and maintain a daily vehicle inspection report, Prosper said. Carriers also certify that they are have or are enrolled in a safety education and training program, she said.

Prosper said requirements for emergency exits only apply to buses.

Joan Claybrook, the top federal auto-safety regulator under President Jimmy Carter, said the stretch limousine industry is poorly regulated because the main agency that oversees car safety doesn't have enough money to prioritize investigating the small businesses that modify limos after they leave the assembly line.

"I think the oversight is pretty lousy, because the modifications are so individualistic, and there are not that many companies out there that do this. Mostly, they are mom-and-pop operations," said Claybrook, a former administrator at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who previously led consumer group Public Citizen. Instead, the agency tends to focus more on problems with new cars and major recalls, she said.

U.S. Department of Transportation data shows five people died in three separate stretch limo accidents in 2010, and 21 people died in another three stretch limo accidents in 2011.

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