California limo tragedy sparks safety changes in Knox company

California limo tragedy sparks safety changes in Knoxville company

Photo By Martha Mendoza of Associated Press Photo By Martha Mendoza of Associated Press

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -   After a fatal limo fire in California, a Knoxville based company is taking action to make their cars even safer.

A limo burst into flames Saturday night on a San Francisco bridge, killing five of the nine women on board. The group was out celebrating the wedding of one of the women who died.  It is not clear what caused the limo to catch fire.

Mike Haley, the owner of Elite Limos in Knoxville says he's taking extra precaution after the tragedy.

"By law we're required to have one fire extinguisher on us at all times but after we heard about the incident in California we decided to add one to the rear passenger compartment to take an extra safety precaution," Haley said.

Haley has been operating his fleet of limos for five years and says he was shocked by what happened on Saturday.

"Usually accidents like this don't occur in the professional business were in," he said. 

He says safety is a top priority at his company and he's already making changes to keep his customers even safer.

"We're going to make sure everyone is even more aware of where the emergency exit is, how to get to the door," he explained.

Limos in Knoxville are inspected by Knoxville Police Department.

"They drive the limo here where we actually take a look at the physical vehicle. We look at the lights, make sure the lights are operating probably, the windshield wipers. We make sure the tread on the tires and we make sure the vehicle is clean and there is appropriate seating," said KPD spokesperson Darrell DeBusk.

Authorities say the limo in California was carrying nine passengers when the capacity was eight.

"When a manufacturer builds these limos they're built for an X number of passengers and your insurance goes with that so whatever it says it maxes out as is where you should stop," Haley explained, stressing the importance of those capacity limits.

There are two rear doors in his 22-person Hummer limo plus an emergency exit hatch.

KPD inspects every vehicle once a year but they do not inspect the mechanics of the vehicle.

"As far as mechanical issues, that is left up to the owner of the limousine, responsible for the upkeep and the condition and any recall issues all that goes back to the owner of the limo," DeBusk said.

Haley says they conduct mechanical inspections every 30-60 days.

"With the full blown inspection it goes once a year but every time we do oil changes they're checking out my brakes and other interior issues," Haley explained. "Every time they check the tires they're making sure everything's in 100 percent working order."

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