HEALTH & SAFETY
Live events sector
Two people have each been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection to the fire that occurred at the Ghost Ship warehouse party in Oakland, California on the 2nd December 2016, headlined by electronic group Golden Donna. The two have been named as Derick Almena, who leased the warehouse and is decribed as the Ghost Ship founder an party ‘promoter’, and Max Harris, who had a supervisory role at the building and was titled the ‘creative director’.
A total of 36 people died in the blaze, including artists Cherushii, Joey Casio, Nackt, and Cash Askew from dream-pop band Them Are Us Too.
District Attorney of Alameda County, Nancy E O’Malley, who has brought the charges against the two men, told reporters that Almena and Harris had “knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape [and] then filled that area with human beings and are now facing the consequences of their actions” saying “The paying guests at the event were faced with a nearly impossible labyrinth of the defendants’ making. They allowed individuals to live in the warehouse and deceived the police, the fire department and the owner of the building to that fact. They allowed large groups to assemble in the warehouse for unpermitted and unsafe musical events in that space”.
At the time the Sacremento Bee commented: “There were propane tanks stashed in corners, plus space heaters, hot plates, candles, exposed electrical wires dangling from the ceiling. Gas-powered generators hummed mere feet away from handmade light fixtures hooked up with extension cords. But there was no sprinkler system and only two ways out of the Ghost Ship, a dilapidated Oakland warehouse where at least 36 people died Friday night in a blaze that erupted during an illegal dance music rave. It’s one of the deadliest fires in California’s history. The Ghost Ship was a disaster waiting to happen – and everyone who entered the place seemed to know it, for all 10,000 square feet of the warehouse was crammed with old furniture, rugs, makeshift bedrooms, art studios, instruments, old doors and half-finished sculptures.”
“Recreational vehicles were parked on the ground floor, and a shoddily hand-built staircase to the second level, which became a bottleneck for fleeing ravers, was literally made out of kindling” according to one artist quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle.
A spokesman for the DA’s office added that the actual cause of the fire had not been identified and probably never would “because of the nature of the fire and its consumption of nearly all of the evidence”. The investigation into the blaze was now complete, she added, and no additional people would be charged. The building was described by fire officials as “maze-like and cluttered with objects, including wooden pallets”, and the blaze spawned a crackdown on similarly unlicensed performance venues in California.
Almena and Harris were taken into custody “without incident” in Lake County and Los Angeles County.