Two warehouse party operators are facing up to 39 years in prison for their role in the deaths of 36 people who became trapped in a blaze at Oakland’s Ghost Ship in late 2016.
As CNN reports, Derick Almena and Max Harris have been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter over the deaths, as the former owned the warehouse and was illegally subletting it when the incident took place, while the latter was the “creative director” of the warehouse party that cost its attendees their lives.
The Alameda County district attorney Nancy O’Malley has stated that the two men “knowingly created a fire trap with inadequate means of escape. They then filled that area with human beings and are now facing the consequences of their action.”
At the time of the party, up to 25 people were living unreported in the warehouse space, and the “floor-to-ceiling” storage of their flammable belongings contributed to the inferno that ensued, with local residents complaining only weeks beforehand of a “ton of garbage piling up on the property”.
While the exact cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, the building was littered with “recycled dry wood, such as fence boards, shingles, window frames, wooden sculptures, tapestries, pianos, organs, wooden furniture, RV trailers, rugs, and other ramshackle pieces.”
Following the tragedy, Almena expressed his intense regret and claimed that he would never intentionally harm his tenants, and his attorneys have claimed he is being made a “scapegoat”.
“We intend to vigorously defend him in the court of law,” CNN quotes. “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.”
O’Malley, on the other hand, slammed the pair for their negligence.
“We continue to mourn the loss of the 36 young vibrant men and women … who should be with us today.”