Defense Team For Ghost Ship Collective Founder Says Fire Started Next Door

Victims' attorney counters that the defendant is the one who created a "death trap," so it doesn't matter where the fire sparked

The defense team for Derick Ion Almena, the founder of the Ghost Ship collective, claimed Monday that the fire that killed 36 people inside the Oakland warehouse did not start there, but in an adjacent building.

An attorney for the victims, however, says regardless of where the fire started, Almena is responsible for creating the "death trap" that ultimately caused those people to die.

The defense team said in a news release Monday that it has received a reliable scientific report indicating the new finding about the origin of the fire. 

Officials allowed media a closer look Tuesday at the burned Oakland warehouse where 36 people lost their lives late Friday.

"Such should reasonably foreclose any criminal negligence charges against Mr. Almena," the release said. "Recall that the ATF could not conclude where the fire originated. The reasonable doubt here is overwhelming."

But attorney Mary Alexander, who represents the families of several victims, said the report is nothing more than a legal strategy, and Almena is responsible for the deaths no matter where the Dec. 2 fire started.

"He created a death trap," Alexander said. "Once the fire started, these people couldn't get out, these beautiful young people. He is the one who allowed this event, didn't have a permit for it. He's the one who built the second floor with stairs made of pallets."

The ATF has not yet provided an official cause of the fire or released a statement on the defense team's report.

Alexander, who is representing five of the 36 victims, said the defense's report indicates faulty wiring in an adjacent building sparked the deadly blaze. But, she added, the report was prepared by an investigator, not an electrician. She said the defense is merely trying to create doubt in the court of public opinion.

Almena's attorneys did not comment further about the report.

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