"All it takes is a few breaths," says UC Davis Professor Kent Pinkerton, speaking to the Chronicle after reviewing some of the autopsy materials in the Ghost Ship case, in which all 36 of the deceased are said to have died of smoke inhalation. Pinkerton, who heads UC Davis's medical school’s forensic science graduate group, says that deaths like these can take only a few minutes, confirming what was believed to be the cause of most of the fire's deaths since a few days after it occurred in early December.
A deputy from the Alameda County Medical Examiner's office gave a statement Friday regarding the causes of death, though the official coroner's reports have yet to be released. It had been widely publicized since the December 2 blaze that the victims likely did not suffer from burns other traumas, though the dramatic scene, including the collapse of the structure's roof, had left open the question about how, exactly, some of the victims perished. Several of the victims also reportedly had burns in their airways.
As the Associated Press puts it, "The result, while striking in its uniformity, is not surprising. Smoke inhalation is the most common cause of fire fatalities."
Due to the intensity and toxicity of the smoke, and the concentration of activity on the second floor of the building, from which escape was difficult, the dead are said to have succumbed very quickly and almost none of those of who survived the fire ended up hospitalized those who managed to get out were mostly uninjured.
The exception is Sam "Peaches" Maxwell, who spent time in a medically induced coma and remains hospitalized in San Francisco, recovering from complications from smoke inhalation.