Manager of Oakland Warehouse says he’d ‘Rather Let Parents of Victims Tear at his Flesh’ Than Answer Questions About Possible Criminal Charges

On Monday, workers and emergency responders look at a warehouse in which a fire late Friday claimed the lives of at least 36 people on in Oakland, Calif. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
On Monday, workers and emergency responders look at a warehouse in which a fire late Friday claimed the lives of at least 36 people on in Oakland, Calif. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

The manager of the Oakland, Calif., warehouse that burned down, killing at least 36 people, apologized for the devastation while defending his vision for the “Ghost Ship” artists’ collective during an agonized, frequently tense interview on the Today show.

After Matt Lauer welcomed him with “good morning,” Derick Almena shook his head.

“It’s not a good morning,” he said. “What am I doing here? Can I just say I’m sorry?”

When asked if he should be held accountable for the disaster, Almena — who has been accused of failing to correct unsafe conditions — said, “What am I going to say to that? … I can barely stand here right now.”

Further questions from the hosts about the possibility of criminal charges seemed to agitate Almena, who ultimately said:

“I’m an honorable man. I’m a proud man. I’m not going to answer these questions on this level. I’d rather get on the floor and be trampled by the parents — I would rather let them tear at my flesh than answer these ridiculous questions.

“I’m so sorry,” he repeated. “I’m incredibly sorry.”

You can watch the entire interview here.

The fire started late Friday night at a dance party at the Ghost Ship.

“Survivors recounted having to struggle to escape the burning warehouse, where many of the victims were on a makeshift second floor served by a rickety staircase of wooden pallets,” The Associated Press reports. “Visitors described the structure as a warren of scrap wood, sofas, old pianos and electrical cables.”

Authorities have confirmed 36 fatalities, 17 of whom have been publicly identified. One victim was a 17-year-old, whose name won’t be released; the other victims ranged in age from 22 to 35.

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SOURCE:  
NPR