2 Charged in Warehouse Concert Fire That Killed 36

Involuntary manslaughter charges for 'knowingly' creating a 'fire trap'
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2017 6:28 PM CDT
2 Charged in Ghost Ship Warehouse Concert Fire
Composite photo of Derick Almena and Max Harris, the two men charged in Oakland Ghost Ship fire.   (AP)

Two men have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the tragic warehouse fire in Oakland that claimed the lives of 36 during a concert in December. Ghost Ship property manager Derick Almena and creative director Max Harris were arrested Monday and were each charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, reports the LA Times. The Alameda County district attorney claims the pair “knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape,” giving concert-goers only one exit on the night of the fire—an illegally constructed staircase. A statement describing the conditions of Ghost Ship, a warehouse Almena used to rent space to artists and organizers, says it was cluttered with flammable materials from “floor to ceiling," including "carvings, mannequins, paintings, artwork, scraps of wood, pianos," but lacked fire suppression equipment.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined, and with most forensic evidence burned in the blaze, will likely stay a mystery. In a combative interview on Today days after the incident, Almena told host Matt Lauer that the project was intended to build the artistic community, reports AP. "This is not profit, this is loss,” he said. “This is a mass grave. I'm only here to say one thing, that I am incredibly sorry and that everything I did was to make this a stronger, more beautiful community and to bring people together." Oakland’s mayor celebrated the arrests, saying that the pair deceived city officials and “deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” (More fire stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.