Ghost Ship Trial: Survivor tearfully recalls failed attempt to save tenant from fire

Bay Area

OAKLAND (KRON) — As the deadly Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse trial continued Monday, tenant Jose Avalos returned to the stand and tearfully testified about his failed attempt at saving another tenant. 

Max Harris and Derick Almena are each facing 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter as result of the 36 people that died in the 2016 warehouse fire.

Under cross examination Avalos admitted Almena had installed two garden hoses while he lived there.

He also indicated Oakland Police had been to the warehouse on several occasions.

Prosecutors have sought to portray the defendants as negligent for letting people live in a so-called “firetrap.”

But the defense is making the point that if the facility had been as bad as they say, police and or fire officials who visited the warehouse would have or should have done something about it.

Bob Mule, another Ghost Ship tenant, who was living there at the time of the fire took the stand next.

He testified it was Max Harris who rented him a space in the warehouse. He also said he gave his rent to Harris.

The prosecution also introduced a lease or receipt signed by Mule and Harris from the time he initially rented his space.

The prosecution asked if Mule hid the fact he lived at the Ghost Ship warehouse because it was not zoned as a residential space.

Mule said that was not the case, but prosecutors showed him a transcript of a prior interview he gave to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, where he said it was.

He said he did not remember saying that.

Mule testified there was only one other big party he attended during the year he lived at the warehouse, and none were advertised.

However, prosecutors showed him flyers promoting several other events featuring Harris as the DJ.

On the night of the fire, Mule testified he was hanging out with fellow Ghost Ship tenant Aaron Marin on the first floor of the building when marin smelled smoke.

While Marin went upstairs to investigate, Mule saw flames and ran to the front of the building and screamed “fire” and “fire extinguishers.”

When he returned to where he had seen smoke, it had turned black.

He failed to find a fire extinguisher initially, but later found one, but was unable to get it to work.

Choking back tears on the stand, Mule testified its then he ran into fellow tenant Pete Wadsworth on the ground.

He said the fire was spreading and the area “was engulfed in flames.”

Unable to lift up Wadsworth, he began trying to pull him out towards the front door but a tricycle blocked his path and he let go of Wadsworth and ran out the front door.

Once outside the building, Mule testified he began yelling Wadsworth’s name.

Mule testified he and Harris then began shining the lights of their cellphones inside the smoky building to help those trapped inside navigate their way out, screaming “get down, follow the light.”

Mule testified numerous people did end up coming out, but Wadsworth was not one of them.

Wadsworth was one of the 36 who ended up dying in the fire.

Mule testified he then heard voices coming from the second floor.

He says he jumped a fence on the side of the building, found a ladder, climbed up and then attempted to break a second floor window to provide an exit for those trapped.

But he was unable to break the window.

He later found out the voice he heard was Aaron Marin’s.

Marin ended up surviving the fire by jumping from a second floor window.

Mule also testified prior to the fire starting he saw two people he didn’t know in the area of the warehouse typically off limits to non-residents.

The defense has tried to redirect blame to a group of unknown arsonists for setting the fire.

As for living at the Ghost Ship, mule testified “I loved it…I felt safe.”

Mule suffered burns on his hands arms and shoulders as a result of the blaze.

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