The master tenant of the Oakland warehouse known as the Ghost Ship pled guilty to 36 charges of involuntary manslaughter after the building suffered a devastating fire during an event in 2016 that ended in the tragic loss of 36 lives. Derick Almena, 50, pled guilty in exchange for a 12-year sentence, avoiding a second trial after the first ended with no verdict. As part of the plea agreement, Almena will face between nine and 12 years in jail but was already released on bail last year and likely won’t return due to credited time served and good behavior.
Last summer, the City of Oakland reached a settlement in Ghost Ship case as they agreed to pay a total of $32.7 million dollars to those impacted by the tragic warehouse fire. Of the settlement money, $23.5 million will be paid to the families of the 36 victims who lost their lives, and the remaining $9.2 million will go to Sam Maxwell, a survivor of the warehouse fire who escaped the burning building, but suffered permanent injuries.
The fire happened during an underground house and ambient party for the 100% Silk record label on December 2, 2016 at an industrial Oakland warehouse in which Almena was accused of illegally converting into an artist collective work space. Owners of the property had prior knowledge of the building’s electrical issues prior to the disaster, as Almena and resident Max Harris emailed both property managers Kai and his sister Eva Ng, suggesting the “overexertion” on the building’s electrical supply was dangerous. It later came to light that authorities were aware of the unsafe conditions and that Oakland’s city officials ultimately failed to enforce building and fire codes that could have prevented the blaze.
Featured image: Jim Wilson