Man Behind Illegal Artist Enclave in Oakland Where 33 People Are Confirmed Dead Described as ‘Arrogant’

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These are the first pictures taken of the man who ran the doomed Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse since it burnt down in a devastating fire on Friday night, killing at least 33 people.

Derick Ion Almena was spotted just after checking into a smart hotel in Oakland city center last night with his wife Micah Allison.

The pair ignored all questions from the Daily Mail Online but a pal who was with them, who declined to give his name, said they currently had no comment, just saying: ‘No statements’ before hurrying them into an elevator.

This comes as a long-time friend of Almena told DailyMail.com that the warehouse Almena operated was rancid, covered in feces and frequented by drug users.

She described Almena as an ‘arrogant’ man who was so self-involved that he laughed off warnings his artist’s commune was a potential death trap and allegedly ignored repeated safety warnings.

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In an earlier phone call to Almena’s phone, the same friend told Daily Mail.com: ‘He’s not available, we will release a statement. Upset is really not the word when we have the magnitude of this tragedy.

‘You can’t really describe how that feels, there’s no words to describe the magnitude of the loss of life and the sorrow.’

Asked if Almena regretted his insensitive Facebook post after the fire in which he moaned about losing his furniture and art collection in the tragedy, the man said: ‘Let’s say we would like to look for the next post ok. There will be another statement. There will be a release for the media.’

Almena’s Facebook post has become a lightning rod of anger at the ‘deathtrap’ warehouse where the party took place.

Commenting on the anger over Almena’s Facebook post and allegations he had ignored numerous warnings the art commune was a dangerous and he had failed to make it safe for the parties held there, the man said: ‘I think at this point the people are going to lash out. I think that’s sad that’s the focus. The gravity of it is hard to even comprehend.’

The couple’s three children were seen being loaded into a car outside the hotel and were driven off by a woman wearing some form of ID badge.

An eyewitness said: ‘It looked like the woman was an official of some capacity.’

This comes as it emerged Almena was warned repeatedly he had created a death trap but laughed off concerns, DailyMail.com has learned.

A friend of Derick Ion Almena claims the venue operator was so ‘arrogant’ that he brushed off any fears surrounding his ‘amazing’ art space.

Danielle Boudreaux, who has known Almena and his wife Micah Allison for eight years, even claims one visitor to the warehouse – known as the Oakland Ghost Ship – was so concerned about the state of the property that she told her fire-fighter husband who arranged for an immediate fire inspection.

She claims the local fire department carried out an inspection two years ago and warned Almena of several fire safety violations, branding the warehouse a ‘tinder box’ – but still nothing was done.

At least 33 people perished at a rave on Friday night at the structure, with many more still missing.

Shortly after the blaze Almena wrote on Facebook to say he and his wife Micah and their three children were okay and then moaned about losing his furniture in the tragedy.

He wrote: ‘Confirmed. Everything I worked so hard for is gone. Blessed that my children and Micah were at a hotel and 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.’

This comes as a worrying picture begins to emerge of life inside the Ghost Ship, where several people are believed to live, some in an indoor ‘RV park’.

Visitors have described a squalid scene where cat faeces and used condoms litter the limited floor space, junk and ‘art’ is piled high in every room, nails protrude from stairs made out of old pallets, brick work crumbles in the walls and drug use is rife among the inhabitants.

And DailyMail.com has also spoken to the nanny who worked for Almena and his wife Micah who tells how the couple would disappear to wild parties for five nights at a time leaving her to care for their three children.

Almena’s insensitive Facebook posts sparked outrage on Saturday and Boudreaux told DailyMail.com that he had repeatedly ignored pleas to make the place safer.

She said: ‘When people told him it was a deathtrap, he would laugh. In Derick’s mind he was creating this amazing art space, and everything going on there was the most amazing thing ever.

‘I was disgusted by his Facebook post, but it was typical Derick. People were saying ‘maybe he didn’t know people were dead at that time’, no he knew.

‘I’m telling you anybody who was upstairs, if there was a fire started anywhere downstairs, the likelihood of you being able to get out of that building is slim to none. ‘And there were no fire alarms, no sprinklers, nothing.’

Boudreaux said Almena and wife Micah moved into the warehouse with their children around three years ago.

She said he rented the place for $5,000 a month and sub-letted space to several artists.

The owner of the property has been identified as Chor Ng who owns several buildings across the bay area.

According to property records inspectors found two violations at an apartment building in San Francisco he owns including cracked walls.

In Oakland the City has received four complaints about another property owned by Ng in Chinatown, three for graffiti and one to do with sewer waste leaking from the property.

None of the properties received as many complaints as the warehouse in Oakland where the fire broke out at about 11.30pm on Friday.

The property has received 10 complaints over the past 10 years, the most recent involving a makeshift stairwell and un-permitted construction.

She said Almena lived upstairs with his family where they slept in wooden four poster beds he’d imported from Bali.

The eccentric building operator created an indoor ‘RV park’ downstairs charging residents $500 a month per person and would also make money renting the space for parties.

‘The first quarter of the 2nd floor was the family’s residence, the rest of it was the dance area and the stage,’ Boudreaux explained.

‘They had these crazy huge four poster Balinese beds up there, and huge wooden Balinese couches, and a pagoda.

‘Downstairs was the RV park. It was filled with a bunch of drug addicts who would come and go in six to eight RVs on the bottom floor.

‘It was $500 per person per month. His goal was always to have at least ten people, because the rent was $5k a month.’

In an ominous Facebook post from May 2014 Almena advertised his warehouse space – chillingly he wrote: ‘Smokers are welcome’.

Source: Daily Mail UK