Ghost Ship organizers delay pleas in involuntary manslaughter case
The embers of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire continue to smolder.
The Oakland, California space ignited during an event hosted on December 2, 2016, becoming the state’s “deadliest building fire since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.”
Attendees then gathered at an electronic dance music party organized by an artist collective would be plunged into darkness shortly after 11 PM. As the two-story warehouse was swiftly engulfed in flame, the cause of the fire was able to be attributed to a variety of hazards present in the warehouse. The Ghost Ship venue was not equipped with automatic fire suppression system sprinklers that would have alleviated the outbreak of a fire, nor an automatic fire detection alarm system.
While the cause of the fire was undetermined at the time and remains unknown, police officials later discovered a myriad of electrical problems in the space that likely contributed to the blaze. The space, which spanned 9,880 square feet, was outfitted with an amateur and outdated electrical system known for its consistent power failure. Power strips provided much of the warehouse’s electricity, placing strain on an already inadequate electrical system.
To make matters worse, Ghost Ship was already in a deteriorated physical state, preventing attendees’ escape — those trapped on the second floor of the warehouse were unable to venture to the ground floor of the structure when the fire started, the stairs unsafe due to their makeup, a haphazard pairing of planks and wooden pallets. The Ghost Ship fire claimed the lives of 36people that December evening.
Master tenant of the warehouse, Derick Almena, and the building’s creative director, Max Harris have both been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, a number that could land both men in prison for thirty-nine years in state prison for their negligence.
Recent details in the ongoing case have come to light. Almena and Harris’ defense attorneys have currently delayed entering pleas, pushing the plea entry to August 4, when both clients are expected to return to court. Both lawyers have asked for their respective clients to be released on their own recognizance. The plea delay comes arrives as the lawyers await what Harris’ lawyer calls the “damning evidence.”