10 women, many in 90s, escape burning Calif. limo

burning limo

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (AP) — Ten elderly women escaped unharmed when the limousine they were in burst into flames while idling in Northern California, authorities and a passenger said.

The Sunday morning fire in Walnut Creek came a little more than a month after five nurses were killed while trapped inside a burning limousine on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.

Fire crews were called to a gated community in Walnut Creek around 11:35 a.m. Sunday for a vehicle fire. They quickly put out the burning 2009 Lincoln Town Car, a dispatcher told the Contra Costa Times (http://bit.ly/ZERU0q ).

Many of the women were in their 90s. They were apparently headed to Sonoma to celebrate a friend’s 96th birthday.

Passenger Mary Chapman told KGO-TV (http://bit.ly/13xb6Oz ) the driver of the limousine told everyone to get out, and she and two other women who were more able-bodied helped others escape. She smelled and saw smoke and said flames erupted seconds later.

“When I looked out, there were red flames all over the place and black smoke,” Chapman said, standing in front of the charred limousine. “And now you can see the result.”

The other passengers were dependent on walkers and canes, she said.

The limousine has been inspected and maintained, Claudius Oliveira, owner of Town Car SF, which operates the limousine, told KGO-TV.

He attributed the fire to the limo’s electrical system and said a manufacturer’s defect was to blame.

“I’m speechless because this is a new car. … I keep great records of the cars,” Oliveira said.

Walnut Creek police are investigating the fire and have alerted the California Highway Patrol about it, Lt. Lanny Edwards told the Contra Costa Times.

The CHP is investigating the May 4 fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.

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