Fires

Owner of Oakland warehouse rebuked over post about deadly fire

Authorities have launched criminal investigation

 

The man who owned the converted Oakland warehouse known as the “Ghost Ship,” which caught fire over the weekend killing 36 people, drew scrutiny over a Facebook post in which he lamented over what he had lost.

Derick Ion’s Facebook-post received more than 2,000 mostly-critical comments before it was deleted, according to KTVU-TV.

“Confirmed. Everything I worked so hard for is gone. Blessed that my children and Micah were at a hotel safe and sound,” the post read. “… It’s as it I have woken from a dream filled with opulence and hope…to be standing now in poverty of self worth.”

Angry users expressed their thoughts on Ion’s post.

“You’re a dead man (expletive),” Craig Milder wrote. Another said, “What a disgusting piece of (expletive).”

Public records show Ion’s full name is Derick Ion Almena and that he has lived in California since at least 1990, mostly in Los Angeles, before moving to Oakland in 2006. His wife Micah Allison had spent much of her life in Northern California.

The couple rented out five recreational vehicles and other nooks on the ground floor as living spaces. A rickety makeshift staircase led to a second floor where concerts were held. Former residents said there frequently was no electricity or running water.

Authorities said Sunday that the death toll in the fire had risen to 33 and that teenagers were among the victims.

Officials estimated that between 35 and 40 percent of the partly collapsed structure's remains had been searched as of Sunday afternoon, and crews clearing debris were expected to find more bodies as they advanced, Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly said.

Late Sunday, officials said they had identified eight victims, one of whom was 17 years old. That person's name was not made public.

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The seven other victims were identified as Cash Askew, 22, of Oakland; David Clines, 35, of Oakland; Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, of Coronado, Calif; Sara Hoda, 30, of Walnut Creek, Calif.; Travis Hough, 35, of Oakland; Donna Kellogg, 32, of Oakland; and Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, of Hayward, Calif.

Sgt. Kelly said that some of the victims hailed from Europe and Asia. He also confirmed that one of the victims was the son of an Alameda County sheriff's deputy.

The warehouse had been carved into artist studios and was an illegal home for a rotating cast of a dozen or more people, according to former denizens who said it was a cluttered death trap with few exits, piles of wood and a mess of snaking electric cords.

"If you were going there for a party, you wouldn't be aware of the maze that you have to go through to get out," said Danielle Boudreaux, a former friend of the couple who ran the warehouse.

As many as 100 people were there for a party Friday night when the fire broke out just before midnight. Fire officials were still investigating the cause of the blaze, but they said clutter fueled the flames, there were no sprinklers inside and few exits to escape.

Shelley Mack said she wasn't told the residence was illegal until after she moved in a couple years ago and stayed for four to five months, paying about $700 a month. She said she was instructed to tell visitors it was a 24-hour workspace for artists and when outsiders or inspectors planned to visit, residents would scurry to hide clothes and bedding.

"It's like a horror house. Just horrors in there," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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