When a passenger first knocked on the limo partition to let driver Orville Brown know that she smelled smoke, Brown thought she was asking if she and the passengers, a bride and her friends, could smoke cigarettes. "They had the music up in the back," he tells the San Francisco Chronicle. "I said, 'The owner doesn't allow smoking in the car, and we only have four minutes to the destination.'" But seconds later, she was knocking again, and all nine women were yelling "Smoke!" and begging Brown to pull over. He did so, no more than a minute after she first knocked, he says. But by then "there was a lot of smoke. It was coming through so fast," Brown says of the accident that ultimately killed the bride and four other women.
Brown hurried out of the car, followed by one of the women, who climbed through the partition and ran around to open the back passenger door. "When she opened that back door, I knew it wasn't a good scene. I figured with all that fire that they were gone, man," Brown says of the five who weren't able to crawl through the partition. "There were just so many flames. Within maybe 90 seconds, the car was fully engulfed." (Previous articles said the women were unable to get out the back doors; they were found huddled on top of each other near the partition.) "Man, they were having so much fun," Brown says. "Beautiful women just wanting to go to a party." The bride's husband was apparently waiting for her at the hotel they were headed to.