Laguna Beach : Woman Strapped by Seat Belt in Burning Car Dies

A 65-year-old Laguna Beach woman who was trapped in a burning car while dozens of people watched, unaware that someone was inside, has died, officials said Monday.

A UCI Medical Center spokeswoman reported that Barbara Ann Auerbach died Saturday, two days after the car in which she was a passenger caught fire in a shopping center at 600 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.

Rich Dewberry, Laguna Beach Fire Department battalion chief, said the fire was listed as accidental. He said the exact cause of death will be determined by the coroner’s office, which performed an autopsy.

Dewberry and a witness to the fire, who declined to be identified, said Thursday that about 40 people watched the car burning but were unaware that anyone was inside.


The fire continued for about 10 minutes before firefighters arrived, and they at first did not know anyone was in the car, Dewberry said.

It wasn’t until the firefighters shattered both the rear and front windows of the auto and began pouring water inside that they saw Auerbach strapped by a seat belt in the passenger’s side of the front seat.