The manager of the Ghost Ship Arts Collective, located inside an Oakland warehouse that burned down over the weekend—killing at least 36 people—reportedly disregarded fire hazard warnings.
Fire officials who are investigating the deadly blaze told ABC News that the fire doesn’t appear to be arson, but criminal charges might be in order.
Derick Ion founded the Ghost Ship Arts Collective and ran it out of the warehouse, serving as a work and live-in space for artists in the region. Those who used to live in the warehouse told ABC affiliate KGO-TV that police and fire officials had even warned him about a potential fire hazard at the building, but he allegedly didn’t do anything about it.
Ion, in a Facebook post, wrote about his losses. “Confirmed. Everything I worked so hard for is gone. Blessed that my children and Micah were at a hotel safe and sound. It’s as if I have awoken from a dream filled with opulence and hope…to be standing now in poverty of self worth,” he wrote, referring to his wife, Micah, according to local media reports.
Some criticized Ion for not focusing on the dozens of people who died in the fire, but for instead focusing on his non-fatal personal losses.
According to the East Bay Times, Ion—whose full name apparently is Derick Ion Almena—had written a lengthy screed in which he talked about “addiction” on Facebook.
“Addictions never admitted armed me as revolutionary,” he wrote. “… as long as i seek help and healing, have current registration, pay my insurance, piss in a cup twice weekly … i can proverbally [sic] get away with murder.”
In the post, he claimed to be “the thriller love child of Manson, Pol Pot, and Hitler,” without elaborating.
He wasn’t the owner of “Ghost Ship,” but the Times reported that he and his wife leased it from an Oakland landlord and lived at the warehouse while charging $300 to $600 per month to tenants.
In a video, a former Ghost Ship volunteer, Danielle Bourdeaux, said she was friends with Ion and his family. But she said inside the warehouse there were “dangerous” and “disheveled” conditions, which she warned about several times.
Ion, she alleged in the clip, is a “hoarder” and didn’t listen to her.
One of the artists who lived at the warehouse, Shelley Mack, said she was drawn there due to the low rent and the promise of being around fellow artists.
“Some people were happy to have a roof over their head even though there was no heat or no place to eat or that it was filthy and infested,” Mack told AP. “You just get sucked in because it seems like it’s this nice place and this artistic community and they talk a good game. There are people there that wanted to be there and believed in it. And I think I did too for a little bit. And then I afterward, I was like, um no.”
Officials confirmed that 36 bodies were recovered from the burned warehouse. Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton, meanwhile, said officials “absolutely believe” that the death toll will increase, as reported by the SF Examiner.
“When we started this investigation, if you had told us that you would have 33 victims, we wouldn’t have believed you,” Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly was quoted as saying in previous reports. “I don’t know how many people are left in there.”
The names of seven victims of the fire were released by the Alameda County coroner’s bureau on Sunday. They are: Cash Askew, 22; David Cline, 24; Travis Hough, 35; and Donna Kellogg, 32. Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, of Coronado in San Diego County; Sara Hoda, 30, of Walnut Creek; and Brandon Wittenauer, 32, of Hayward; were also identified, the Examiner reported.