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Coroner Officially Identifies Five Victims of Limo Fire

Women from Dublin, San Lorenzo and Alameda died with two others.

Update (9 p.m. Tuesday): Husband and family of late Dublin resident Jenni Balon share their memories.

Update (1:40 p.m. Tuesday): On Tuesday, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center upgraded the conditions of Jasmin de Guia, 34, of San Jose and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro, from serious to fair. 

Update (11:30 a.m. Tuesday): The San Mateo County coroner officially identified all five victims of the May 4 limousine fire. The fifth victim was identified Tuesday as Felomina Geronga, 43, a nurse and mother of two from Alameda. More details.

Complete coverage of the tragedy

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Jenni Balon, 39, of Dublin and Anna Alcantara, 46, of San Lorenzo were among the women who perished in the limousine fire Saturday on the San Mateo Bridge, according to news reports. Each was the mother of two children. 

They died on their way to a bridal shower to celebrate the recent marriage of Neriza Fojas, 31, the first of the fatalities identified in the tragedy. A fourth victim, Michelle Estrera, 35, who worked with Fojas at a Fresno hospital, also has been identified in news reports. The name of the fifth woman who died has not yet been reported.

Jenni Balon and her husband, John, moved to Dublin five years ago from the Philippines, according to KPIX5. Jenni was a nurse at Fruitvale Healthcare Center in Oakland, where John is a physical therapist and where several of the victims worked. Jenni Balon leaves behind a 22-month-old son, Jayden, and a 10-year-old daughter, Jillian.

Alcantara also worked at the Fruitvale Healthcare Center. Her brother-in-law, Rusty Padojino, told the Chronicle that being a nurse was her lifelong dream. She was married and had a son, 14, and daughter, 8.

As relatives shared the victims' stories with the media, survivor Nelia Arellano, 36, of Oakland told her harrowing tale. The first to make it out of the limo, she said she helped three friends to safety through the small window between the passenger and driver compartments. Jasmin de Guia, Amalia Loyola and Mary Grace Guardiano escaped the inferno. The limousine driver, Arellano said, should have done more to help.

Meanwhile, because the 1999 Lincoln Town Car carried nine women Saturday night, the limo service will be scrutinized by the PUC for exceeding the vehicle's eight-passenger capacity. And Arrellano's story raised more questions, as she said the rear doors of the limo were locked.

Arellano told ABC7 News that when she knocked on the limo partition to report the fire and smoke, the driver didn't respond immediately. She said when he did finally stop the car on the bridge Saturday night, he didn't do much to help her or the others escape.

"When he get out from that car, he just opened the door, that's all he did. I even ask him, 'Help me, help me,' because I bring out my head from that compartment and say help me, so I could squeeze myself over there and slide myself," Arellano said. "I even ask the driver, 'Open the door, open the door!' He didn't do anything." (Video interview with Arellano.)

In a CNN interview, the driver, Orville Brown, said that when one of the women knocked on the partition and said smoke, he "figured that she was asking if she could smoke a cigarette. … I said, well, we only have four more minutes, and the boss doesn't allow us to smoke in the limo. About 30 seconds passed, and she knocks again and I look back. This time, I'm kinda concerned. I smell smoke. I look back. And I just saw the grief, the anguish, the grief on her face." (Video interview with Brown.)

In a Los Angeles Times interview, Brown said when one of the survivors opened the back door of the limo after he stopped it on the bridge, the car became engulfed in flames and there was nothing he could do. He said his memory was "foggy" of how the women who survived the fire got out.

On Tuesday, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center upgraded the conditions of Jasmin de Guia, 34, of San Jose and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro, from serious to fair. The condition of Mary Grace Guardiano, 42, of Alameda, who had been taken to Stanford Medical Center, was not available.

George Muteff May 08, 2013 at 03:09 AM
This is such a senseless tragedy. About all I can think of is why, which leads me directly to the driver. When I first heard about it, one of the first things I heard was that the driver escaped unharmed. One has to wonder exactly how that could be. Did he make any attempt to save anyone, other than himself? Sure doesn't appear that way. In this piece, we see this: "He said his memory was "foggy" of how the women who survived the fire got out." Foggy, huh? Yeah, right. It's foggy because that is the most convenient way to bypass what he did versus what he should have done. If I am right on this, it would be my hope that he spend the rest of his natural born days locked up and in shame. Just look at what he did, what his responsibilities were and now what he has to offer. Yeah, tell that to all the family members left behind by such careless irresponsibility and the I'm OK, so to Hell with everyone else. We don't yet know how the fire started, but we do know that it is the responsibility of the driver to make sure the vehicle is in good working order before he leaves to pick up his fare. We also know that his passengers are his primary responsibility from the time they get in to the time they get out. And his memory is "foggy"? Doubtful, but convenient (for him).
Me May 08, 2013 at 03:48 PM
LMAO - What a moronic comment. Jump to conclusions much?
Carole Brady-Duport May 08, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Only those who were there know what happened, maybe. Such a stressful situation makes for poor memory. Sad.
Hamid Mezhoud May 08, 2013 at 09:50 PM
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