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Elderly women narrowly escape flame-engulfed limo

Passengers in their 90s, some with walkers and canes, were headed to a birthday party when fire broke out

Published June 10, 2013

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — A Northern California woman celebrating her 90th birthday almost didn’t make it to her party on Sunday morning when the limousine she and her friends were taking burst into flames.

“I don’t understand how it happened. I really don’t,” Elayne Lofchie told NBC News afterwards.

Lofchie was on her way to Sonoma with three caretakers and six of her dearest friends when the limo they were in caught on fire.

“One minute everything is fine and the next minute it was chaos.”

Lofchie said they had just gotten inside the limo when they smelled smoke about 11:30 a.m. Within minutes, the limousine was engulfed in flames.

Passenger Mary Chapman and two other women who were more able-bodied helped others, many of whom were dependent on walkers and canes, escape.

Fire crews quickly put out the burning 2009 Lincoln Town Car, which was left badly charred, but the owner of the company that rented it out says the close call has left him “speechless.”

The limousine has been inspected and maintained, Claudius Oliveira, owner of Town Car SF, which operates the limousine, told KGO-TV.

He attributed the fire to the limo’s electrical system.

“I’m speechless because this is a new car. … I keep great records of the cars,” Oliveira said.

Walnut Creek police are investigating the incident.

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