Fireball limo driver 'bickering with wife on phone' before fatal blaze

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Fireball limo driver 'bickering with wife on phone' before fatal blaze

A report into a limousine fire that killed five women celebrating a wedding in Northern California in May has revealed that the driver was having an argument with his estranged wife on the phone while a fire ripped through the passenger compartment.

Rachel "Raquel" Hernandez-Brown told the San Jose Mercury News 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 paper. "I said, 'You're not paying attention.' You know, like, get off the phone. Stop calling me."

The report also discovered that one of the nine nurses travelling in the limo banged on the driver's partition to warn Brown that the rear of the limo was filling up with smoke.

Brown told authorities that he initially misunderstood the warning as a request to smoke a cigarette and kept driving.

It has also been revealed that when Brown finally realised the gravity of the situation, he called his estranged wife rather than dealing with the situation.

Hernandez-Brown added: "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 exact cause of the fire is still unknown but investigators have alluded to friction from the driveshaft as a possible factor.

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.

One of the survivors, a tearful Nelia Arellano, told KGO-TV a few days after the fire that Brown "didn't do anything" to help the women escape the car.

Police continue to investigate the case.