Oakland's Ghost Ship Tenants Have Been Charged With 36 Count of Involuntary Manslaughter
Last December, Oakland suffered a devastating tragedy as 36 artists, fans, and DJs perished in a fire at a warehouse morbidly called "Ghost Ship."
The incident rattled much of the music community, shedding a light on the potential dangers that lie when events take place at illegal venues. Without a permit from the city and breaking several fire codes, a fire erupted in the northwest corner of the building which to date is a sober reminder that even gatherings of the best intentions can have terrifying consequences.
Now, more than six months later Alameda County prosecutors are charging building tenants Derick Almena, 47, and Max Harris, 27, with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. The courts have compiled evidence that suggests that Almena and Harris knowingly invited guests to Ghost Ship with the knowledge that the building was a tinder box just waiting for a match.
(Derick Almena making his first court appearance in Lake County on Monday. Photo courtesy of Zach Jordan)
According to a report from the East Bay Times, local District Attorney Nancy O'Malley stated that “The paying guests at the event were faced with a nearly impossible labyrinth of the defendants’ making to get out of that building...[Alemna and Harris] very purposefully allowed floor-to-ceiling quantities of highly flammable materials…that created a deadly and dangerous space.”
The illegal music venue and arts space also operated as a collaborative living space with illegal sub-tenents being encouraged to create living quarters out of "non-conventional building materials" which included fence posts, shingles, wooden sculptures, pianos, furniture, and other highly flammable materials.
Court documents also revealed that in preparation for the electronic dance music event, Harris blocked off an area of the second floor that included a second stairwell, leaving guests to escape through a single point of entry. Once the fire erupted, guests that were able to escape down the single stairwell did so in complete darkness.
Almena and Harris are being held for 1.8 million and 1 million dollar bail, respectively. If convicted on all 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, Almena and Harris could both face up to 39 years in prison.
H/T: Dancing Astronaut