Two Arrested in Ghost Ship Fire That Killed 36 in Oakland Warehouse

Two Arrested in Ghost Ship Fire That Killed 36 in Oakland Warehouse

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Monday, 05 June 2017
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Two people have been arrested in connection to the December Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 people inside an Oakland warehouse, the L.A. Times reports.

Derick Ion Almena, 47, the warehouse’s operator and concert promoter who converted the space into an underground venue and living space for local artists, was arrested Monday morning, according to Almeda County Assistant District Attorney Teresa Drenick. Charges have yet to be formally filed.

Max Harris, the warehouse’s creative director who had been living in the space since 2014, was also arrested. Harris was the doorman on the night of December 2nd, when a fire broke out inside the Ghost Ship, trapping numerous attendees. Over 70 people were in attendance for a Golden Donna concert; the 36 victims, whose ages ranged from 17 to 61, all died from smoke inhalation, according to coroner’s reports.

Harris previously claimed he reported electrical issues and power outages, along with crucial upgrades and electrical bills, with the building’s owners, The L.A. Times reports.

But Oakland officials have denied being made aware of dangers inside the crammed, 10,000-square-foot warehouse. The city’s fire chief stated that the department hadn’t inspected the location or responded to dispatches there in over 10 years, adding that city officials were unaware it was being used a concert and living space.

However, in February, the city released public records showing that the building had received at least 10 code enforcement complaints.

Chor N. Ng owned the warehouse. Her daughter, Eva Ng, previously claimed the building was only leased as a studio space and not as residences.

A lawyer for Almena did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

As demonstrated by photos released before the fire, the building was confusingly structured and crammed with collectibles, instruments and art projects. Oakland Fire Department Chief Teresa Deloach Reed even described the building as being “like a maze.”

Ghost Ship was known as a safe haven for local artists. “People are desperate for places,” executive director of Gray Area Foundation for the Arts Josette Melchor told CNN. “It’s one of those things where you don’t want to report something you see because you know how hard it is for people to find spaces.”

Artists lived in the warehouse and built lofts between the first and second floors, using two-by-fours and other types of wood. Photographer Bob Mulé, a loft resident, described to Rolling Stone the chaotic scene in the warehouse as the fire began. “There’s fire extinguishers all over the place, but of course, in the moment, it’s like, ‘Where the fuck are they?'” he said.

Days after the tragedy, Almena apologized for the horrific fire during a bizarre interview on Today, though he flinched when asked if he should be held accountable.

“I’m only here to say one thing: I’m incredibly sorry and that everything that I did was to make this a stronger and more beautiful community and to bring people together,” he said.

“I’m not going to answer these questions on this level,” he responded to questions about possible criminal negligence. “I’d rather get on the floor and be trampled by the parents [of the victims]. I’d rather let them tear at my flesh than answer these ridiculous questions.” 

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