It could take weeks to figure out why a white stretch limousine caught fire over the weekend, turning a celebratory bachelorette party deadly, authorities said Monday.
Nine passengers were traveling in the Lincoln as it headed across the San Francisco Bay along the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge on Saturday night. Only four came out alive.
The bride-to-be, 31-year-old Neriza Fojas, was among the dead.
"To watch this long limousine just engulf in flames. It was just a nightmare," Ricky Brown, the driver of that vehicle, told CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Monday. He was uninjured.
The limousine showed no sign of problems before it caught fire, Brown said.
Recalling the sequence of events, he said one of the women in the limousine knocked on the partition separating him from the passengers, and said "smoke."
He thought she was asking if she could smoke a cigarette.
"I said, 'Well, we only have four more minutes and, you know, the boss doesn't allow us to smoke in the limo.' About 30 seconds pass, and she knocks again," Brown said.
This time he knew something was wrong.
Smelling smoke, he immediately pulled over.
At least one of the women climbed through the partition. Someone, Brown wasn't sure who, opened the back door. He was able to help one or two of the women out of the burning vehicle.
"Everything happened so fast," he said. "When that back door opened, it just burst into flames."
"I just wish that there could have been something done, more," Brown said.
The vehicle is listed with California's Public Utility Commission as legally carrying eight passengers or fewer, so it was in violation, said Mike Maskarich, commander of the California Highway Patrol in Redwood City.
The driver had the proper license.
"The flames were gigantic," said Roxanne Guzman, who was in a car crossing the bridge about 10 p.m. Saturday. "The flames were so big and radiating so much heat that I could feel the heat off of my face, and I was in my car the entire time."
The four passengers who got out suffered smoke inhalation and burn injuries.
One patient remained in critical condition Monday at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, while another was in serious condition. The conditions of the other two survivors were not immediately known.
The bodies of the women who died were found in the car, pressed against the partition between the passenger compartment and the driver's area, authorities said.
Fire officials said a crew responded quickly, but it was too late to save them.