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Driver’s wife says couple argued moments before deadly limo fire

Five women died in the May 4 limo fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, officials said. Four others and the driver were able to escape.
Five women died in the May 4 limo fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge, officials said. Four others and the driver were able to escape.
(Jane Tyska / Associated Press)

The estranged wife of the driver in a deadly limousine fire said the two argued on the phone shortly before the May blaze on a Bay Area bridge.

Rachel “Raquel” Hernandez-Brown told the San Jose Mercury News that her husband, Orville “Ricky” Brown, was trying to reconcile after a fight the couple had had earlier in the day. At one point, she said, he turned up the limousine’s already-loud music so the passengers couldn’t hear the arguing.

“The music was really loud. And I kept yelling, ‘I can’t hear you. Turn it down,’” she told the newspaper. “I said, ‘You’re not paying attention. You know, like, get off the phone. Stop calling me. I’d hate to have a limo driver like you.’”

The nine women riding in the limo were on their way to a bridal party when the 1999 Lincoln Town Car caught fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. Four managed to escape through the partition separating the driver and passengers, but five others died, their bodies huddled near the divider.

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An investigation into the incident is ongoing. The driver, who gave numerous interviews after the fire, declined to comment on the Mercury News article.

Brown previously told the Mercury News that it took five minutes for him to call 911 because it was “total chaos.” His wife said he called her moments after he got out of the burning vehicle.

Before he left the scene, she told the newspaper, he sent her a video of the charred wreckage.

”... Remember this could off put me in the ground,” the text read. “Think about it n Pray bfr u lay day. I’m praying for all ya’ll. love u Mrs. BROWN.”

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Twitter: @katemather | Google+

kate.mather@latimes.com


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