Limousines used to be limited to politicians and the rich and famous. Today, in Honolulu, limos have become standard for weddings, bachelor parties and even for teens going to the prom. While statistics indicate they are generally safe, a terrible exception occurred this May, when a limousine caught fire on a bridge near San Francisco and five nurses out celebrating were trapped in the vehicle and died in the fire.
The results of the investigation into the cause of the fire were released this week by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). The CHP indicated that no criminal charges would be filed in the case, as the cause appeared to be the hot floor pan of the vehicle igniting the carpeting and other inflammable materials in the passenger compartment of the vehicle.
The car accident and fire was caused by the stretch limos suspension failing. This allowed the drive shaft of the car to come in contact with the body pan, and the friction from the rapidly spinning shaft caused the floor of the vehicle to become so hot that the carpeting caught fire.
Smoke inhalation from the burning carpet and interior of the car was the cause of death for the five trapped passengers. Four others escaped through the window separating the driver and passengers at the front of the vehicle.
While the collapse of the suspension was an “accident” and not a criminal act, it is probable this case will result in a wrongful death case by the families of the deceased nurses. It is likely they will argue in a negligence action that the suspension failed due to either poor design or improper maintenance.
Source: NBC News, “Horrific limo fire that killed 5 California nurses was accidental, say investigators,” Daniel Arkin, August 20, 2013