OAKLAND, California. – Aaron Marin was convinced that his life was over as the smoke enveloped in a California warehouse in what the country’s deadly building fire in more than a decade.
However, Marin survived, and testified Wednesday at a preliminary hearing for two men charged in the fire in the Oakland building known as the Ghost Ship.
Marin pointed out that people who were not able to escape came up the stairs shaking their heads and saying, “No.”
“I sat there and accepted the fact that it was just for me,” he said about the fire on Dec. 2, 2016, which killed 36 people.
Marin was the first witness called by the prosecutors as they try to convince the Alameda County Judge Jeffrey Horner that defendants Derick Almena and Max Harris stand trial on involuntary manslaughter charges.
Almena rented the warehouse and lived there with his family. Harris has also been in the building and helped Almena book musical acts and sublet the space to artists.
Prosecutors say that the people are made aware of a firetrap and deceived the building owner, the police and fire department officials about the people who live there. The two have pleaded not guilty and say they are being scapegoated.
The warehouse illegally converted into living quarters for artists, was messy and had no fire alarm or sprinklers.
The fire took place during an impermissible electronic music concert.
Marin, a musician who was staying in the warehouse, described it as a “museum” filled with musical instruments, trailers and other items. Inside was like entering Disneyland, he said.
He said that he was alerted to the fire by the smoke. Within a few seconds, he saw the flames coming from behind a turntable. The screaming when the power went out.
Marin, who was emotional at the time, testified that he remembered the location of a window and have his way with his eyes closed to protect them from the smoke.
He tried to alert other people, but it was loud. At the window, he said, he yelled for help and a ladder.
“‘There are people dying here,'” he recalled yelling. He stepped out and dropped safely to the ground on soft mud. He said that he was not injured.
The hearing is expected to be a few days.