Sher­iff: More bod­ies may not be found in ware­house

Fire’s death toll at 36 as of­fi­cials search ev­i­dence

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY PAUL ELIAS AND JANIE HAR

OAK­LAND, CALIF. | Prose­cu­tors said Mon­day that mur­der charges could re­sult from their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the fire that broke out dur­ing an un­der­ground dance party at an Oak­land build­ing known as the “Ghost Ship.”

Alameda County Sher­iff Gre­gory Ah­ern told The As­so­ci­ated Press he didn’t think there would be ad­di­tional bod­ies found as the death toll reached 36 in the most lethal build­ing fire in the U.S. in more than a decade.

But he cau­tioned that it was “im­pos­si­ble to be ab­so­lutely pos­i­tive” un­til the en­tire re­cov­ery ef­fort is com­plete. Au­thor­i­ties had gone through about three-quar­ters of the build­ing by Mon­day af­ter­noon.

The la­bo­ri­ous job of dig­ging with shov­els and buck­ets through the de­bris was sus­pended overnight be­cause of a dan­ger­ously un­sta­ble wall. It re­sumed in the morn­ing, though a rain­storm Tues­day could com­pli­cate the ef­fort. The clut­tered ware­house had been con­verted to artists’ stu­dios and il­le­gal liv­ing spa­ces, and for­mer denizens said it was a death trap of piled wood, fur­ni­ture, snaking elec­tri­cal cords and only two ex­its.

Alameda County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Nancy O’Mal­ley said Mon­day her of­fice has sent a team to search for ev­i­dence of a crime in the ware­house, but has not yet de­ter­mined whether a crime even oc­curred. She said po­ten­tial charges could range from in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter to mur­der. She de­clined to say who her team has in­ter­viewed.

“It’s too early to spec­u­late on any­thing,” Ms. O’Mal­ley said. “We just started our in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and we owe it to the com­mu­nity and those who per­ished in this fire, and those who sur­vived the fire to be me­thod­i­cal, to be thor­ough, and to take the amount of time it takes to be able to look at ev­ery piece of po­ten­tial ev­i­dence.”

Oak­land city coun­cil­man Noel Gallo, who lives a block from the ware­house, said he con­fronted the prop­erty’s man­ager — Der­ick Ion Al­mena — sev­eral times about neigh­bors’ con­cerns about trash in the street and in front of the ware­house. Mr. Gallo said Mr. Al­mena es­sen­tially told au­thor­i­ties to “mind their own busi­ness” and ap­peared re­sis­tant to ad­dress­ing com­plaints and com­ply­ing with city codes.

Mr. Al­mena and his wife, Micah Al­li­son, ran the build­ing’s arts colony called the Satya Yuga col­lec­tive.

Mr. Al­mena told San Jose tele­vi­sion sta­tion KNTV in an in­ter­view Mon­day that about 20 peo­ple lived there. He said he had gone to a ho­tel Fri­day night with Ms. Al­li­son and their chil­dren be­cause he was ex­hausted.

“We’re sorry to the fam­i­lies and all the friends that have lost loved ones,” he said, with Ms. Al­li­son by his side hold­ing his hand. “I gladly would give my en­tire life of for­tune, of wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence again and again and again, and I say this to you and I say this to the cam­era and to who­ever is watch­ing me that I sur­ren­der ev­ery­thing.”

He de­nied know­ing about the Fri­day night party, but ac­quain­tances said the cou­ple threw fre­quent par­ties open to the pub­lic, for fees col­lected at the door.

Mr. Al­mena said po­lice have been in and out of the build­ing in the last few years to re­spond to break-ins and other con­cerns of peo­ple who lived there and that they never pointed out any safety con­cerns.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.