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Brown signs Corbett bill for more exits on limos

Law addresses death of 5 in May limo fire

A bill that aims to improve safety for limousine passengers in the wake of a fatal limousine tragedy that killed five women on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge earlier this year was signed into law Friday.

The limo safety bill authored by state Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) was introduced at the start of the year but was ushered through the

Legislature after five women were killed when limo they were riding in caught fire on the bridge on May 4.

The law will increase the number of required exits in the passenger compartment of limousines, with an extra door and a push-out window. It also requires limo operators to brief passengers on safety features at the start of a trip.

The law will apply to all new limousines starting July 1, 2015. All existing limos have until Jan. 1, 2016, to conform the vehicles to the requirements of the law.

In a statement released today after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill, Corbett said, "It is vital that limo passengers remain safe so that these celebrations do not turn into tragedies."

The five women killed were part of a group of nine women celebrating the wedding of Neriza Fojas, 31, of Monterey.

Fojas perished in the limo fire, along with Jennifer Balon, 39, of Dublin, Anna Alcantara, 46, of San Lorenzo, Michelle Estrera, 35, of Fresno, and Felomina Geronga, 43, of Alameda.

The five who died were unable to escape the vehicle that became engulfed in flames.

The group was heading to a hotel in Foster City.

Four women - Jasmin Jasmin Deguia, 34, of San Jose, Mary Guardiano, 42, of Alameda, Nelia Arellano, 36, of Oakland, and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro - and the driver, Orville Brown, 46, survived the fire.

TownCar SF is the company that owned and operated the limo.

In a letter to Gov. Brown in September, the Greater California Livery Association wrote "on behalf of over 5,000 California limousine operators" for the governor to veto the bill.

The association, which represents limo and bus companies and operators, claimed that the new safety measures "may actually present the opportunity for reduced passenger safety."

The group charged that extra openings "would introduce additional oxygen into the vehicle" and in the San Mateo bridge incident, could have caused a massive explosion.

They urged the governor to consider more studies about engineering the modified limos and the costs associated with the new safety requirements for cars.

Another limo safety bill authored by state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) was vetoed today.

That bill, SB 338, sought to require the California Highway Patrol to conduct annual safety inspections for stretch limousines. It also would

have required that the vehicles be equipped with two "readily accessible" fire extinguishers on board.

Brown rejected the bill and in his veto letter cited his passage of Corbett's bill that would establish safety requirements to protect limo passengers.

"Riding in a limousine should be free from dangers that can be avoided with an annual safety inspection," he said in the letter.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

— Bay City News Service

Comments

Posted by stewart, a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2013 at 7:45 am

So? Let me see if I have this correctly? The limousine association's view is that if there were additional exits that would have killed the ladies regardless?
What am I missing here?


Posted by Bad Bill, a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Oct 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm

This bill completely ignores the facts of this tradegy. A friend of mine was a fire forensic specialist who examined the vehicle and other aspects of this matter.

The fire was directly caused by failure to maintain "air bags" used to support the added weight of stretched limosines. (These are not to be confused with collision protection air bags like we have in our cars.) The vehicle had no rigid backup system to prevent the vehicle from sagging from the weight of the passengers and the inadequately maintained air bags.

Lacking these protections, the vehicle sagged down to the point where the spinning drive shaft contacted the floorboards. The noise of this metal on metal could not be heard over the sound of the loud music being played by the occupants. Friction heated the floorboard to the point that the upholstery and such caught fire.

When the vehicle came to a stop, the passengers could not escape because the doors were locked and could only be opened from the driver's control seat controls. This situation was present because the occupants, like many young folks in limosines, think that it is fun to open their doors while the vehicle is in motion. Should someone fall out and be injured, the limosine company would, of course, be sued. So the door locks are controlled by the driver.

Now, please tell me how an additional exit will fix any of these contributing factors?


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