Husband: Daughter cries for mother killed in limo fire

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by CBS News

CBS News

Posted on May 7, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 7 at 5:20 PM

The husband of one of the five women killed when a limousine became engulfed in flames on a San Francisco Bay bridge says their 10-year-old daughter cries for her mother at night and is still working on paintings to give her for Mother's Day.

John Balon identified his wife, 39-year-old Jenni Balon, as one of the victims of the Saturday night fire to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The 38-year-old Balon says his daughter and 1-year-old son are still looking for their mother. He told his daughter that she is in heaven and wouldn't be happy if they worried about her.

The limousine was carrying nine women celebrating the recent wedding of another victim, Neriza Fojas, when it caught fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. Four women escaped.

Nelia Arellano, one of the surviving passengers, said in an interview Monday with a San Francisco television station that she believes the driver, Oliver Brown, could have done more to help during the fire, which took place Saturday night on one of the busiest bridges on San Francisco Bay.

"When he stop the car, he get out from the car, he just get out from the car," she said.

Brown, a San Jose man who worked for the limo company the past two months, has said in interviews that one of the passengers tapped on the partition behind him, saying something about smoke as music blared from the back. No smoking was allowed, he told them.

Then the taps turned to urgent knocks, and someone screamed "Pull over!"

Brown said he stopped on the bridge as soon as he could. Then he helped pull the women out through the partition, he said.

One of the women who made it through the partition ran to the back and yanked open a door, but Brown said that provided oxygen to the fire and the rear of the limo became engulfed in flames.

Brown said he believed it was an electrical fire.

"It could have been smoldering for days," he told the TV station Monday, noting there was no explosive boom.

Buth Henkey, of Avaolon Transportation, has been driving limos for 43 years. He told CBS San Francisco station KPIX-TV, "I have heard of death by fire in a stretch limousine. But usually only involving a collision/accident. I've never heard of one just driving down the road and developing into a fireball."

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