Limo Fire Survivor Describes Ordeal

Neilla Arrellano spoke to NBC Monday

One of the survivors of this weekend's tragic limousine fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge is telling a heartbreaking story of loss.

Speaking with great difficulty, as if she were shell-shocked, Neila Arrellano, 36, of Oakland, said she lost five of her friends Saturday night after they were trapped by flames inside a stretch limousine.

Watching the interview is painful; Arrellano utters words through tears and gasps. English is not her first language and it is also a bit of a challenge to understand everything that  she is saying.

But she did recount what she remembered, most of all, that there was smoke in the back of the limousine.

"I saw smoke in the back of the car," she said. "There is a smoke, there is smoke... Stop the car, stop the car. I told you, there is smoke...I said, 'Open the door.' But he didn't do anything. He was on the phone."

She also said none of her friends smoked, and the fire came from under her seat in the back of the car.

In a separate interview, the limo driver, Orville Brown, told NBC Bay Area that at first he thought when he heard the word "smoke," he thought one of the nine women in the back of the limo wanted a cigarette. It wasn't until a short time later that he realized that smoke meant fire.

That's when he jumped into action, and started to dial 911. But at that point, he said, the limo was fully engulfed in flames.

Brown's brother, Lewis Brown, also told NBC Bay Area they think she was confused. "The partition was solid. He [Orville Brown] was not on the phone. He added that the partition wasn't made of see-through glass.

Limousine Driver Described Fiery, Fatal Accident

Arrellano was part of a bachelorette party on their way to a Foster City hotel to celebrate their friend's wedding. The bride is among those who died.

Five of the nine women on board were unable to escape from the limo and died when flames and smoke spread through the rear of the passenger compartment.

Only four passengers were able to get out alive.  Three remained in the hospital Monday night suffering from smoke inhalation and burns.Arrellano, a nurse who works at the Fruitvale Health Center in Oakland, said she got out by sliding her body through the partitian in the front of the limo. She was the first one who got out safely.

She said she thought all of the women tried to get to the front of the vehicle because the flames were in the back. She wasn't sure if any of them tried to get out either of the back doors.

In three video clips posted below, Arrellano describes through tears how the events surrounding the fire unfolded.



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