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Three years later, tragedy of Ghost Ship fire still affects many lives

Angela Ruggiero, The Mercury News on

Published in News & Features

Chelsea's blue fake leather coat is singed on the back and arms, her favorite turquoise and black scarf is covered in soot. She also had a gold and black tank top, a see-through tunic, zebra tights, a black mini-skirt and her favorite black boots that her mom gave her for her birthday the September before.

"The black clothes are uncharacteristic for Chelsea, who was always so colorful. It's almost as if she were going to a funeral," Dolan said.

On Monday afternoon, Ross Clark, who was friends with Chelsea Dolan and knew others who died, stopped by the warehouse. He said it was a shame to see the tragedy that rocked the arts and dance community and the politics following it, when there "was only ever good intentions behind it."

"I think that it really highlighted a point that having events in these spaces, it does require a certain amount of accountability and professionalism," he said.

There's also frustration, the feeling of being in limbo in terms of justice, David Gregory said. On Sept. 5, defendant Max Harris was acquitted of 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter after a grueling four-month-long trial. The jury couldn't agree on a verdict for co-defendant Derick Almena, deadlocking 10-2 in favor of guilt. He is awaiting another trial, expected to begin March 30.

"They really left a bitter taste in our mouths," Gregory said, stating he didn't get the outcome he was hoping for.


"I just hope the jury this time pays attention," he said.

The civil case, which 33 family members of some of the victims have filed against the city, PG&E and the building owners, is expected to begin in May.

The city has turned over about 32,000 documents, videos and photos to civil attorneys representing the families, and depositions of city firefighters, police officers and other officials are underway.

"All these plaintiffs have been waiting for justice for quite some time. It's time for city of Oakland, PG&E and the Ngs to face their music," said Paul Matiasic, who represents four of the 33 families who filed suit.


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