Orville Brown, 46, the driver of the 1999 Lincoln Town Car limousine that exploded into flames Saturday night, killing 5 women, including a bride-to-be and her wedding party, has consistently claimed that he did everything he could to save all 9 women who were passengers in the vehicle.
Survivor Nelia Arellano, 36, tells a much different story.
“When he get out from that car, he just opened the door, that’s all he did,” Nelia Arellano, 36, told ABC News affiliate KGO-TV. “I even ask the driver, ‘Open the door, open the door.’ He didn’t do anything.
“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,” she said Monday.
In conflicting interviews following the tragedy, Brown’s version of events changed in slight — but important — ways, from the number of women he was able to pull from the car, to the amount of time that it took for the car to burst into flames. But he admitted that he was traumatized and couldn’t remember everything clearly.
He also admitted that when Arellano said “smoke,” he thought she was asking to smoke a cigarette. Due to the limousine company’s restriction on smoking, he told her to wait 4 minutes until they reached their destination.
It wasn’t until Arellano knocked again that he not only saw the smoke, but the “panic” and “grief” on her face.
Read more details from ABC below:
“When they opened the door, that let the fire get oxygen, that oxygenated the fire, it allowed oxygen to get to the fire and that fire spread so fast,” Brown told KGO, noting there was no explosion or boom along with the fire.
Brown has said in interviews he believes the cause of the fire was electrical, noting it, “could have been smoldering for days.” Authorities have said it is too soon to pinpoint the cause.
The victims’ bodies were found huddled near the partition separating the driver’s section of the car and the rear passenger area, suggesting they were trying to escape the fire, according to San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault.
Fojas, 31, and a second dead passenger, Michelle Estrera, were both nurses at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Calif.
Fojas was recently married in the United States and was planning a second ceremony in the Philippines next month. Fojas and her friends were on their way to the Crowne Plaza Hotel for her bridal shower, where her husband was waiting, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Another dead passenger, identified by KGO as Jenny Balon, was a 39-year-old mother of two children.
Her husband, John Balon, says he was told by Arellano that just prior to the fire, smoke poured in from the back of the limo cabin.
“Jenny was all the way back so she wasn’t able to pull her out before the car was engulfed in flames,” he told KGO.
The three survivors hospitalized were identified as Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose; Mary Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro. Arellano Oakland, was treated and released.
Arellano even went so far as to claim that Brown was on the phone and ignored her cries for help:
“Stop the car, stop the car,” she recalled telling Brown. “I told you, there is smoke.”
Brown’s brother, Lewis Brown, told NBC Bay Area that she must be 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.
The fire is still under investigation and charges may be pending due to the limousine carrying more passengers than allowed.