It was a frantic cry for help as a woman trapped inside the back of a burning limousine on a San Francisco area bridge called 911.
“We need help. We're on the San Mateo Bridge. The car is burning! The car is burning!”
The passenger replied, “I cannot make it out!”
The passenger could be heard saying, “Oh my God. I can not open the door. What's going on? I cannot move! Open it!”
The unidentified person screamed. “Get out! Get out! Get out! Get out! Get out!”
The doors were locked and wouldn’t open from the inside or out. Rescuers could only watch in horror as the screaming inside the limo faded to silence. There were five women inside, all part of a bachelorette party. The rescuers were forced to give up hope.
The 911 operator asked, “Is there anything else you need me to do?”
The unidentified person replied, “No, I don't thing there's anything we can do.”
The five best friends all died, including the young bride-to-be. The raging fire was attributed to an electrical breakdown.
Just one month after this limo fire, Chris and Rita Saraceno got a heartbreaking call at their home.
Chris said, “I looked over at the caller ID and it said L.A. County Coroner.”
Their 24-year-old old son C.J. was dead. He and his friends had rented a party bus from a limousine service to celebrate a birthday. Tragically, C.J. plunged to his death through the bus’s side door on L.A.'s 101 Freeway.
Chris said, “The bus had shifted, C.J. was thrown against the door and out the door he went.”
Those doors are supposed to lock tight. But C.J’s tragic death was caused, according to authorities, by a mechanical failure. In fact the party bus had been ordered out-of-service for repeated inspection failures. But the order was ignored by the owners.
Anne Fero, the head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration told INSIDE EDITION, “There are companies out there that have chosen to not abide by basic safety rules.”
INSIDE EDITION wanted to see how widespread the problem was across America. Are party-goers on their way to proms, weddings and graduations unwittingly riding in dangerous limos?
One company, Lynette’s Limousine, in Wilmington, Massachusetts, has a slick website and YouTube videos boasting a sleek-looking fleet. But they're not even supposed to be in business. They were ordered shut down last summer when it was found that "these vehicles and drivers pose an imminent hazard to public safety."
Yet INSIDE EDITION was able to hire a stretch hummer from Lynette’s – A limo that Federal Investigators said was too dangerous to be in service.
When the limo arrived to pick them up at their hotel, INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero and several INSIDE EDITION staffers piled inside, pretending to be heading out for a night on the town. But their 15 mile ride was tense because they knew the limo was not supposed to be driven anywhere.
They told their driver to take them to a restaurant where they said they were meeting friends. Instead, there to greet them were Federal Investigators. The investigators swarmed around the limousine and conducted a quick inspection.
An investigator said to the driver, “This vehicle can't move. It has to be towed out of here. Lynette limousine can't conduct any interstate or intrastate commerce. Period.”
The driver said he had no idea that the limo company had been shut down.
An inspector said to the driver, “This is the out of service sticker, if you move or drive the vehicle you'll be subject to a $25,000 fine.”
The driver replied, “Not me.”
The investigator said, “Don't move it. Let the boss tow it.”
The next day, Guerrero went to Lynette’s to find out why they rented us a potentially dangerous limousine. They weren't open. And since then, they haven't returned our phone calls.
Ferro said, “This was a company that we had shut down. And this was a company that for a buck decided that it was ok to keep operating. Frankly, I’m very grateful to INSIDE EDITION.
For safety information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration click here.