Limousine Burns In California

Posted on September 27, 2011

A stretch limousine huffed and puffed up the mountainside before burning completely out.
A stretch limousine huffed and puffed up the mountainside before burning completely out.

CAMBRIAN PARK, Calif. -- Lena Venn and Bob Marshall worked for a year to plan the perfect wedding on Sept. 3 at the end of Bald Mountain Trail atop Mount Umunhum.

The spot, where Marshall proposed to Venn, offers views of the entire Santa Clara Valley. Unfortunately, the wedding party never made it to that spot; they ended up getting married on the side of the road away from firefighters putting out the blaze that consumed their limousine.

It started out to be a perfect day. The limo picked up the couple, her children Tarah and Nick and his camera, and Marshall's 80-year old parents, Norma and Jim Marshall, as well as the Rev. Keith McCaffery, Marshall's friend and the pastor who would marry them. The limo was to take them to the Bald Mountain trailhead, and from there the group would hike about three-quarters of a mile to the spot where the ceremony would take place.

"Everyone was dressed casually," says Venn. "It was a very hot day. And everything seemed fine. We'd gone about 15 minutes up the mountain -- it's a 25-minute trip to the trailhead -- when the car appeared to be slowing and it started smelling like fire. We looked through the back window and there was smoke billowing out. We asked the driver to pull over; he finally did, and we all climbed out. Just about 45 seconds later, the car burst into flames, and shortly after that was engulfed in fire."

At that point, Nick Venn yelled that everyone should move away from the car, and two explosions followed.

Nick continued taking photos and everyone watched as the dried grass on the mountainside caught fire. Both Nick and Jim Marshall tried calling 911 on their cell phones and finally got signals.

"We were standing there in the heat with nowhere to go but up, and it was very hot," Lena Venn told the Resident.

About 15 minutes later they heard a helicopter dropping off a few firefighters. About 10 fire trucks soon followed the helicopter. "It was an amazing operation. The firefighters did an impressive and amazing job and contained the fire within about 30 minutes," she says.

The unlucky wedding party never made it to the mountaintop site for the nuptials. No one was hurt.
The unlucky wedding party never made it to the mountaintop site for the nuptials. No one was hurt.

The wedding party never did make it to the spot on the trail where they had pictured the ceremony. What with the heat, and the guests, making the effort to get to the spot no longer made sense, so they said their vows by the side of the road a short distance from the firefighters.

"We just did the ceremony, but it wasn't the beautiful, romantic place we had planned," Venn says. Still, the sheer absurdity of the situation did cause a few laughs by the side of the road, especially when McCaffery, who was officiating, said he wasn't sure if he should start the ceremony the way he had planned, saying, "On this beautiful day, on top of this mountain ... ."

Then came the struggle to get back down. While the limo company sent out another car, no one could get up the mountain because of the fire. So, the wedding party had to hike down the steep road to meet the new limo in the lower parking lot. Luckily a ranger happened by, and Venn and her new in-laws got a ride to the limo.

The wedding party returned to their home in the Cambrian Park neighborhood only about five minutes late to their catered reception, with some guests who'd traveled from out of town for the party.

One guest at the reception noted that the wedding adventure may not have been part of the planning for the day, but it did make for lively conversation -- and no doubt will provide a good laugh for the newlyweds on future anniversary dates.

Source: San Jose Mercury-News

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