Ghost Ship Trial: Witness describes ‘clear sense of panic’

Bay Area

Witness testimony continued Thursday for the two men standing trial in the 2016 Ghost Ship Fire that claimed the lives of 36 people. 

Two Oakland police officers and a man who survived the fire took the stand at Alameda County Superior Courthouse in Oakland.

Ivan Mairesse provided 40 minutes of testimony and described the warehouse as a cramped and uncomfortable environment. 

Mairesse stated getting up to the second level for the performance that night was difficult and the only staircase he saw was “unsteady.”

Initially, Mairesse and his friends smelled what seemed to be fireworks, but never heard a loud noise. 

Then smoke started to come up from the wooden boards above the first floor. Shortly after he heard a faint yell from a man downstairs to “get out.” 

Mairesse described panic while suffocating during his exit. 

He told the court the lights never turned back on once they went off and he never heard a smoke alarm. 

He also said there were no clearly marked exit signs. 

Prosecutors painted a picture of an unsafe environment for a large gathering of people. 

Defense attorney Brian Getz said, “Hindsight is 100 percent.”

The prosecution also called on two officers— one who is still on the force and the other retired, to testify. 

Both said they had responded to calls for help at the warehouse in the past between 2014 and 2015.

The officers had previous interactions with master tenant Derick Almena, but not with creative director Max Harris. 

Harris and Alemena are facing 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. 

The officers told the court that although they had suspicions people were living in the warehouse illegally, Almena denied that was the case on multiple occasions. 

Both officers said they had been inside the building and did not cite anyone for living there illegally, especially since there were no requests to do so. 

The defense believes the fire was the result of arson, one the defendants could not have prevented. 

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