updated 05/06/2013 AT 1:00 PM ET
•originally published 05/06/2013 AT 10:40 AM ET
The driver of a limousine that burst into flames on a San Francisco Bay area bridge, killing five women, says he at first misunderstood what one of the passengers in the back was saying when she complained about smelling smoke.
Orville Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle that with the music up he initially thought the woman was asking if she could smoke. Seconds later, he said the women knocked again, this time screaming, “Smoke, smoke!” and “Pull over.”
The fire broke out late Saturday night as the Lincoln Town Car crossed the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge on the south end of the bay.
The driver and four women got out, but five others were trapped, including the bride whose marriage they were celebrating.
“This is one of the most horrific things I’ve seen in 21 years with this office,” San Mateo County’s medical examiner Robert Foucrault told the Chronicle. “Looking at it, they were on top of each other and doing what they could to get out.”
According to the report, the women – all of them nurses – were heading to a hotel to celebrate the bridal shower of Neriza Fojas. Her husband was at the hotel, waiting for his bride.
“It wasn’t a traffic collision, but we are still investigating,” California Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel told the paper. “We are asking the public, anyone who saw what happened, to call us. We don’t know if the fire started on the inside or the outside.”