Men charged in deaths at Oakland warehouse fire

Cheryl Sanders
June 6, 2017

The warehouse burned down in December during an EDM concert.

The Alameda County District Attorney said on Monday that prosecutors have filed felony criminal charges stemming from the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire previous year in which 36 musicians and artists attending a late night dance party died.

Derick Almena, the warehouse's operator, and Max Harris, a warehouse tenant, were the ones taken into custody.

Following the bad tragedy that took place at the Oakland DIY art space Ghost Ship, two arrests have been made on charges of 36 counts of manslaughter.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley held a press conference on Monday afternoon to announce the full extent of the charges filed against Almena and Harris.


Mike Madden, the father of one of the victims, Griffin Madden, said he was surprised the owner of the building, Chor Nar Siu Ng, wasn't being charged.

Creating more questions than answers: A DA's Office spokeswoman told reporters the cause of the fire will likely be considered "undetermined" because most of the evidence was consumed in the blaze. "As of today, the charges that we filed are the charges that stand". "This is the conclusion we have come to". One of the two exits had even been blocked off completely.

In January, Serra issued a report that he said cast doubt on Almena's culpability for the fire and suggested that the fire originated in the warehouse next to the Ghost Ship, not the Ghost Ship itself.

O'Malley said Almena and Harris were criminally negligent because they had allowed people to live in the warehouse unbeknownst to the city, fire department and owners, permitting illegal construction and floor-to-ceiling storage that proved highly flammable.

Ng, Almena, Harris and others were named in a lawsuit filed last month by the victims' families.


The "Ghost Ship" was filled with combustible wooden objects and didn't have a sprinkler system.

Reuters reported that in two years before the fire, Oakland officials had recieved "dozens" of complaints about the warehouse and had entered the building at least six times to find hazardous conditions. The attorney representing Almena released this statement: "We believe that these charges represent no less than a miscarriage of justice, and we are confident that this attempt to make a scapegoat out of our client will fail".

Officials have said they had no idea the building was used as a residence.

O'Malley says the organizers were reckless and "knowingly created a firetrap with inadequate means of escape". A reasonable person would have known that acting in that way would create such risk. "Their actions amount to a disregard for human life". They will be back in the Bay Area soon enough, facing the possibility of 39 years in prison.


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