Curtis Briggs, right) and Tyler Smith are co-counsel for Ghost Ship defendant Max Harris.

Jenna Lane/KCBS Radio

Ghost Ship Jury Hears Survivor Describe Fire's Outbreak

Jenna Lane
May 07, 2019 - 9:05 pm

OAKLAND — The jury that will consider 36 counts of manslaughter against two men accused in the Ghost Ship fire of 2016 heard testimony from a survivor who escaped the flames and a whistleblower who warned authorities about dangerous conditions in the warehouse years before it burned down. 

On the second day of testimony, Alameda County prosecutors once again started with emotion. Families of some of the 36 victims trembled and passed around tissues during autopsy reports from a forensic pathologist who testified Tuesday. 

Related: At Start Of Ghost Ship Trial, Video Shows Defendants Misled Police About Warehouse

Then the jury heard from a survivor of the fire, Ryan O’Keefe, who described a wave of hot, black smoke pushing him out the warehouse door less than five seconds after he noticed a small glow of fire.

His testimony did nothing to support the defense theory of arson, but it showed that O’Keefe did not consider defendant Max Harris an organizer of the music show on the night of the fire, as authorities have contended. 

A former friend of defendant Derick Almena testified that a couple of years before the fire, he told Almena that the warehouse was a “death trap.” Rodney Griffin also took his concerns to the Oakland Fire Department, but said he did not feel they were taken seriously.

The jury began to hear from a former Oakland fire marshal who, after the deadly fire, could find no records of the warehouse ever having been inspected. That witness will return on Wednesday.