Ghost Ship Trial: Investigator unable to say electricity caused fire

Bay Area

OAKLAND (KRON) — More than two dozen photos showing the burned interior of the Ghost Ship warehouse were used during the direct examination of ATF Certified Fire Investigator Barbara Maxwell during the Ghost Ship trial Wednesday.

Although Maxwell was the first ATF agent on the scene, she testified that she was not in charge of the investigation.

She told the court that a multi-agency task force was formed that included the ATF, Oakland Fire, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and city officials from Oakland.

She testified that she was the one who called in the ATF’s electrical engineers.

She said the engineers followed the flow of electricity coming into the building all the way to the outlet inside the warehouse to the appliances and when they were done they were unable to definitively say electricity was the cause.

“They should have let ATF handle it from the start,” said Curtis Briggs, defense attorney for Max Harris. “Instead they called in ATF several days later. It was a botched investigation.”

However after reviewing the fire’s burn pattern and identifying the charred remains of a trailer near the area of origin, the prosecutor asked would it have been possible to throw a Molotov cocktail through a trailer to hit a wall.

She told the court, she didn’t think so.

It is the defense theory that the fire was intentionally set

“They can’t rule out arson, the can’t rule out intentionally set fire, can’t rule out electrical problems. Essentially they did not come to a conclusion,” Briggs countered.

The attorney representing some of the victim’s families in their civil law suit says the cause of the fire is not the primary issue

“Max Harris and also Almena built this out, knew that it was unsafe and yet they invited people in . No matter what caused this fire, the people couldn’t get out and they died of smoke inhalation,” said attorney Mary Alexander.

The fourth week of testimony resumes on Thursday.

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