REDWOOD CITY -- Neither the driver nor the owner of the limousine that burst into flames on the San Mateo Bridge, killing five women, will face criminal charges for the tragic blaze, according to a report from ABC-7 News.

Investigators had focused their probe on the driver, Orville "Ricky" Brown, in recent weeks after his estranged wife told this newspaper he was distracted during a contentious phone call with her before the May 4 fire. But investigators have concluded, based on cellphone records, the couple were not on the phone when the 1999 Lincoln Town Car stretch limo caught fire, ABC reported.

When reached late Friday a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman declined to confirm any of the ABC-7 report. But Officer Amelia Jack said investigators will make their findings public Monday afternoon in Redwood City.

"We're not releasing any information right now," she said. "At this point we can't confirm anything."

Brown, the driver, and his wife couldn't be reached Friday for comment.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said he couldn't comment on whether his office had made a decision on whether to charge Brown or limo company owner Kultar Singh. He referred questions to the CHP.

The tragic fire happened May 4 as a group of nine nurses were headed to a hotel in Foster City to celebrate the marriage of Neriza Fojas, who was among those killed. The limo was licensed to carry no more than eight passengers.


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When the back of the limo burst into flames, four of the women managed to escape through a small partition window between the driver and passenger compartments. The bodies of some of the dead were found huddled near the small opening.

ABC-7 also reported the fire started after an air spring deflated in the suspension system, dropping the weight of the customized stretch limo onto its back tires near the gas tank. The CHP wouldn't comment.

State Sen. JerryHill, D-San Mateo, and state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, have both put forth legislation to force new safety rules for the limo industry. The lawmakers have targeted the lack of emergency exits and fire extinguishers. They are also pushing for safety briefings for passengers, like the ones given on commercial flights.

Lawmakers have also said they will address the lack of regulation for limos that carry eight or fewer passengers. Though the vehicles are fabricated in private workshops without uniform safety standards, they undergo no inspections by their regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission.

Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.