REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (AP) — The estranged wife of the Northern California limousine driver who was behind the wheel when a fire in the vehicle killed five women celebrating a wedding said he had been arguing with her on the phone moments before the blaze, according to a newspaper report Sunday.
Rachel "Raquel" Hernandez-Brown told the San Jose Mercury News (http://tinyurl.com/ljazm9d ) that during their shouting match, Orville Brown turned up the music in the limo so his passengers couldn't hear the tense conversation.
"The music was really loud. And I kept yelling, 'I can't hear you. Turn it down,'" Hernandez-Brown told the newspaper. "I said, 'You're not paying attention.' You know, like, get off the phone. Stop calling me."
One of the nine nurses in the vehicle said she banged on the partition to warn the driver that the back of the limo was filling with smoke. Brown told authorities that he initially misunderstood the warning as a request to smoke a cigarette and kept driving.
Hernandez-Brown, in her first comments about the May 4 vehicle fire, said Brown called moments after getting out of the limo to tell her it was ablaze.
"He was continuously calling me back," she told the Mercury News. "I said, 'Well, what made you call me first?' He said, 'Well, I don't know, I didn't know who else to call.'"
The newspaper reported that the CHP was expected to announce the cause of the fire soon, and investigators had focused on friction from the drive shaft.
The nine nurses had hired the 1999 Lincoln Town Car to celebrate the recent wedding of Neriza Fojas, one of the five women who died.