When a bride and eight members of her bridal shower party find themselves in a burning limo that claims five of their lives you can bet that an investigation into the spontaneous fire is going to be conducted. And on Saturday, when the limo fire claimed the lives of bride Nerizo Fojas, and four of her eight friends in attendance, fire investigators from the San Mateo Fire Department began to work on the case along with the California Highway Patrol.
Responding to fire dangers in a goal of six minutes or less, and at a rate of 7,000 times a year, the San Mateo Fire Department in California prides itself on fire suppression and rescues. But on Saturday night they were unable to save five of the nine women trapped in the burning vehicle, including a 31-year-old nurse bride. But they can help determine what claimed the women’s lives due to a vehicle fire, bringing the families answers to why their loved one died.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the 1999 Lincoln Town Car limo was the scene of the fire and that it belonged to Limo Stop, Inc. of San Jose. Other than expressing regret for the loss of lives, the owner has declined to comment publicly on the matter.
CHP Officer Art Montiel wants anyone who saw the fire to call 1-800-TELL-CHP (1-800-835-5247).
Montiel realized some people would not understand why the highway patrol would be investigating a fire death, since, “It wasn’t a traffic collision.” But rather than elaborate on why, he simply said that they would be.
Due to the location of this fire–inside a limo that was a couple hundred yards from the western end of the San Mateo Bridge–the California Highway Patrol has to be involved in the investigation, since the investigation could potentially lead to an arrest of someone (or fines for a business) within their jurisdictional authority. But they will not be undertaking the investigation alone, just the possible criminal portion of it, according to THV11.com
The San Mateo Fire Department will be the experts looking at the fire scene on the bridge (and inside the vehicle) in order to determine if any accelerants were introduced to the vehicle from inside or outside of it.
They will also examine the debris recovered at the scene on the bridge to identify if gasoline, fuel, oils or other special solvents could have been used to ignite the fire from outside or inside the vehicle–or if the limo was hauling any substance in the cargo space area that could have resulted in the fire, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Investigation’s procedures.
The fire department will seek to recover any candles, cigarettes, matchbooks, Molotov cocktails, fused chemical masses, as well as any electronic or mechanical devices that could have been used to start the fire–and which may still be at the scene, partially or in fragments, or within the limo.
Burn trails on the limo carpet or seat fibers could help investigators pinpoint if the fire started within the vehicle, and where, exactly per forensic procedures used in fire investigation.
Finally, the surviving members of the bridal party will be interviewed by law enforcement and possibly fire investigators in order to learn what took place immediately preceding the fire, which can also help with understanding the forensic evidence they may find during their investigation.
National Criminal Profiles Examiner Radell Smith holds a degree in criminal justice and behavioral forensics, and she has successful experience in case investigations that span the local, state and federal levels.
© 2013 Radell Smith
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