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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Limousine Safety Comes Under Fire After Tragic Accident in California


A bachelorette party ended in tragedy for nine women when the stretch limousine in which they were riding burst into flames on the San Mateo Bridge, killing the bride-to-be and four other women trapped inside. Four other friends escaped the limo and were treated for smoke inhalation and burns at two area hospitals. The driver was not injured in the blaze. The limo was authorized to carry eight or fewer passengers, but it had nine on the night of the deadly fire. It is too early to determine whether overcrowding was a factor. A complete investigation may take weeks.

Stretch limos are created by cutting the limo in half, severing its fuel and electrical lines, and rebuilding it with a large passenger compartment in the middle. Although the limousine company, Limo Stop, is licensed and insured, the California Public Utilities Commission, the state agency that regulates and licenses limos, has no rules or standards about how stretch limousines are built. According to Joan Claybrook, a former federal auto-safety regulator, the stretch limo industry is poorly regulated. “I think the oversight is pretty lousy, because the modifications are so individualistic, and there are not that many companies out there that do this. Mostly, they are mom-and-pop operations,” she said.

Although the small limos (less than ten passengers) and larger ones undergo the same structural changes, limos carrying fewer than ten passengers do not require safety inspections. Additionally, the smaller limos are not required to have a fire extinguisher on board. Does that make any sense to you?

Limousines are built by qualified vehicle modifiers (QVMs), who are certified by Ford or Cadillac to do the work, but there are currently no restrictions on who can manufacture a limo. Does anyone else wonder why a vehicle that goes through major modifications including key systems such as the fuel line and electrical system is under-regulated?

As prom, graduation, and wedding season kick into high gear limos become more in demand. What can passengers do to ensure a safe limo ride for their group? Get at least three prices from limo companies. Then check certification status with the Public Utility Commission in your state as well as asking the Consumer Protection Agency if there have been any complaints against the limo company.

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.


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  1. Vern Dennis says:
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    While I doubt that the ninth person was the cause of the fire (it’s an arbitrary number anyway – a limo carrying eight 250 lb passengers would be more crowded that one carrying nine 160 lb passengers) there is no doubt that there needs to be stronger standards in play for doing uch drastic modifications as are needed to create a stretch limo. I personally have seen several accidents in which stretch limos have literally split in half after an impact

  2. guptil says:
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    I love your drawings and have been silently following. What kind of ink do you use for your drawings? And do you ink before or after you watercolor?