MANILA, Philippines — The grief-stricken Filipino family of the bride killed in a limousine fire in the San Francisco Bay Area had been preparing to welcome her home, but now await the return of her remains and hope to learn what caused the horrific accident that left five people dead.
"We want to find out why the fire broke out, and why the driver reportedly did not help," Carlito Fojas, father of Neriza Fojas, said by telephone Wednesday from the family's northern hometown of Camiling in Tarlac province.
His 31-year-old daughter had married Carlo Moya — a physical therapist also originally from the Philippines — in a civil ceremony in Las Vegas last year, but they had planned another wedding June 19 at a hilltop church south of Manila. Her father said her gown was ready for fitting, and they had been looking forward to her June 2 homecoming.
Neriza, a registered nurse living in Fresno, and four of her nurse friends died when their limousine burst into flames Saturday night on one of the busiest bridges on San Francisco Bay as they were celebrating Neriza's impending wedding. The driver survived, as did four other women who escaped by squeezing through a narrow partition separating the front seat from the rest of the car.
Authorities are investigating what sparked the blaze and why those killed were unable to escape.
Neriza Fojas had been calling home daily to get updates on preparations. During a call via Skype the day before she died, she excitedly showed her parents gifts she was going to bring home, including a bag for her mother and T-shirts for her cousins.
Her mother's grief could not be contained. "I have been crying and crying," Sonia Fojas said Tuesday, sobbing.
Carlito Fojas said funeral plans have not been finalized, and that it was not yet clear when his son-in-law could bring home his daughter's remains.
Neriza, the youngest of the Fojases' three children, was a naturalized U.S. citizen. Sonia Fojas said she only recently found out that her daughter had already married.
The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, Harry Thomas Jr., on Tuesday expressed condolences to the family.
"Mystery surrounds deadly limo fire," he said in a Twitter message. "Condolences to the Fojas family in the Philippines and the U.S. and other nurses."