A look inside the Oakland Ghost Ship collective warehouse - On December 2, 2016, at approximately 11:20 p.m. PST (Pacific Time Zone) a fire broke out in a former warehouse that had been converted into an artist collective known as Ghost Ship, which included living spaces, in the Fruitvale neighbourhood of Oakland, California. At the time of the fire, the warehouse was hosting a concert featuring artists from the house music record label 100% Silk. Residential and entertainment uses were forbidden under the warehouse's permits at the time of the fire. A total of 36 people were killed in the fire, the deadliest in the history of Oakland. It was also the deadliest building fire in the United States since The Station nightclub fire in 2003 (More on that later) and the deadliest in California since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the deadliest mass casualty event in Oakland since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Another area inside the Oakland Ghost Ship collective warehouse | abc7news.com
The Oakland Ghost Ship -- The Warehouse Before the Fire | Photo 1 | TMZ.com
Inside Oakland Ghost Ship Warehouse Before the Fire | Rolling Stone - The Alameda County District Attorney's office launched an investigation into the causes of the fire. In March 2017, emails from 2014 were reported to have described serious electrical problems in the building. On June 5, 2017, Ghost Ship's master tenant Derek Almena and his assistant Max Harris were arrested and charged with felony, involuntary manslaughter in connection with the fire. On July 3, 2018, both pleaded no contest to thirty-six counts of involuntary manslaughter in a plea agreement with prosecutors. On August 10, 2018 the judge overseeing the case discarded the plea deals and the pair will now face trial where they could get life imprisonment, if convicted by a jury.
Image Above - Ghost Ship master tenant Derick Almena.
The 9,880-square-foot (918 m2) converted warehouse, known as Ghost Ship, was home to an artist collective, which worked and lived there. It was informally known by the tenants as Satya Yuga. At the time of the fire, residents were hosting a concert featuring artists from house music label 100% Silk, and other independent musicians. Around 50 people were present in the building at the time of the fire. An early report attributed the fire originate to a refrigerator, but this cause was rejected by agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, although agents initially left open the possibility that it was started by another electrical appliance or component. Max Ohr, creative director of the artist collective, said the collective had reported electrical problems to the owner of the building. The fire began on the first floor and spread quickly, and individuals on the second floor were initially unaware of it.
Ghostship assistant Max Harris
Multiple factors prevented the fire's discovery, impeded the escape process, and led to the eventual loss of life. There were no fire sprinklers in the building, and firefighters on scene heard no smoke detectors. The building was cluttered with furniture, pianos, art, and mannequins, most of which were wooden. Oakland Fire Department Chief Teresa Deloach Reed told reporters, "It was like a maze almost." There were two stairways, one in the back and one near the front, but neither led directly to an exit. The second floor stairway was concealed behind contents and furnishings. The front stairway, made from a pile of stacked wooden pallets, was initially reported as the building's only stairway. Only a few people on the second floor were able to escape. They had to crawl along the floor to avoid the smoke filling the building, and struggled to find the front door because of the complicated layout and the clutter blocking the passages. A large number of victims were trapped on the second floor by smoke filling the stairs and because the pile of pallets used as the front stairs was likely burning.
Fire fighters tackle the blaze at the Ghostship Warehouse Fruitvale neighbourhood of Oakland
Image Left - A view down improvised stairway at the Ghost Ship warehouse, which burned in December 2016. The photo, taken in April 2016, shows a guest entering the space ... The first firefighters reached the warehouse at 11:27 p.m. It took five hours for 52 firefighters, using 14 pieces of apparatus, to extinguish the blaze. Firefighters initially pushed 25 feet inside the building, but dense smoke and a debris-littered floor made further access dangerous. A total of four fire companies went inside in an attempt to attack the fire and find survivors, but were withdrawn after they reported that the second floor was well ablaze and the roof was threatening to collapse. Oakland Fire Department Search and rescue personnel deployed drone aircraft using thermal imaging that unsuccessfully searched for survivors after a roof collapse made entering the scene unsafe. Of the five musicians scheduled to perform at the concert, two—headliner Golden Donna and Aja Archuleta —were confirmed to have escaped the fire. The other three musicians on the bill—disc jockey Nackt (Johnny Igaz), electro-industrial performer Joey Casio (Joseph Matlock) and house music artist and radio host Cherushii (Chelsea Faith Dolan)—were killed. Seventeen-year-old Draven McGill, who sang in the Pacific Boychair, was the youngest fatality of the fire, and 61-year-old Wolfgang Renner, a musician who played the electronic keyboard, was the oldest. Of the deceased victims, all but one were visitors to the warehouse.
Image Above - Johnny Igaz aka DJ Nackt passed away in the Ghost Ship fire, but his spirit and music lives on in local tribute parties. Photo by Amanda Allen.
Image Above - New Wave and Synth master Joey Casio was killed in the tragic Oakland Ghostship collective fire
Joseph Matlock also known as Joey Casio, was 36 when he died.
Chelsea Faith Dolan, aka Cherushii also died in the disaster.
Draven McGill, 17, was the fire's youngest victim -
If I should die, and leave you here awhile
Be not like others sore undone, who keep
Long vigils by the silent dust and weep.
For my sake, turn again to life, and smile,
Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
Something to comfort weaker hearts than thine.
Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine,
And I, perchance, may therein comfort you!
Friends of Wolfgang Renner remember the 61-year-old Oakland resident as carefree, witty and intelligent.
“Wolfgang was about as free of an individual as anyone is likely to ever meet. When we were close, it was a joy to go and visit him as he was a capable host who made all of his friends feel welcome and celebrated,” wrote Robert Janca in a Facebook post.
Renner, originally from Germany, was identified Wednesday as a victim of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, which claimed the lives of 36 individuals. He was a fixture of the underground electro scene for several decades and attended goth events in the late 1990s. Renner was also a regular at the Cat Club in San Francisco.
Another friend described Renner as, “Super witty, intelligent and original.”
Image Above - A memorial mural painted in memory of the 36 individuals who lost their lives in the Ghost Ship fire - A criminal investigation into the fire was launched by the Alameda Country District Attorney's Office on December 4th, An arson investigation was also launched. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said charges against anyone found responsible could range from involuntary manslaughter to murder. A report published on February 8, 2017, was inconclusive, noting that the investigation was ongoing and that the electrical system was part of the analysis. In public remarks on January 23, 2017, lawyers for Ghost Ship founder Derick Ion Almena claimed that the fire originated in a building adjacent to the warehouse, and that Almena should not be held responsible.
Image Above - A Memorial display
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf remains popular despite a tragic fire, a police scandal, the pending departure of the Raiders and Warriors and a municipal strike.
Libby Schaaf's term as Oakland Mayor has been marred by the Ghost Ship fire, police scandals and a municipal strike. Still, she's likely to be re-elected.
Golden Donna aka electronic artist Joel Shanahan (credit: Heidi Johnson) - Golden Donna survived the fire and managed to escape.
Image Above - Cash Askew - On March 14, 2017, Oakland Fire Department Chief Teresa Deloach Reed tendered her retirement. The lead prosecutor from Alameda County in charge of the investigation had been requesting the city fire department's report on the fire for several weeks when he finally received a copy on March 17. Its contents were not released to the public. On March 21, 2017, a judge ruled that all debris from the fire must be preserved as potential evidence in pending lawsuits. The East Bay Times reported on March 24, 2017, that the son of the building owner wrote an email about electrical problems to Derick Almena on February 15, 2015. The Times stated that Almena illegally sublet living space to other artists within the warehouse. They found emails showing that Almena had complained to the owner's son that electricity in the building used "ancient and violated lines of distribution" that were "in dire need of a total and immediate upgrade." The paper reported that an electrician who was currently unlicensed had performed repairs in 2014. He found ungrounded subpanels and "deferred maintenance dating back decades requiring immediate intervention." He reported to the owners that a single 7.5-kilovolt transformer meant for lighting was being used for three businesses in spaces owned by Ng, exceeding its capacity. An attorney representing victims' families stated, "They were on notice that there was problems with the electricity.
Them Are Us Too was formed in the Bay Area in 2009 by Kennedy Ashlyn and Cash Askew. Their early limited edition demos and intimate performances gained them a cult following within independent music circles as a young, new take on the revered “4AD sound” of dreamy goth-pop anthems. With a nod to 80’s shoegaze sensibilities, Them Are Us Too created songs about tragedy and loves-lost that drew devoted listeners to their nostalgic and innocent sound. Ethereal guitars combined with ghostly synths and elegant vocals form the core of the band’s sound, under which a steady drum machine keeps the groove. Kennedy Ashlyn’s vocals have been repeatedly compared to Kate Bush, Harriet Wheeler, and Elizabeth Fraser, with a pitch-perfect octave range carrying songs gracefully between optimistic joy and undisturbed melancholia – all within one moment of verse. Guitarist Cash Askew painted a layered and complex backdrop using signature reverberation and washes of stringed ambient tones, akin to Robin Guthrie, Ronny Moorings, and Kevin Shields.
Image Above - The deadly blaze completely destroyed the inside of the warehouse because the majority of it's contents was wood.
Because the Ghostship warehouse was so full and cluttered with items it was similar to a maze and made it sufficiently harder for people to escape who were unfamiliar with the layout and exit points.
AFT police officials inspect the Ghost Ship warehouse from inside as Oakland firefighters investigate outside on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016 in Oakland, Calif. 36 people were killed when a fire broke out on Dec. 2 at the Ghost Ship warehouse on 31st Avenue and International Boulevard in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood. As many as 100 people were inside attending a music performance. The blaze is now the deadliest structure fire in California since the 1906 earthquake and fire. Officials said the cause of ignition is still unknown and the building had no evidence of fire sprinklers.
Many of the 36 victims of the Ghost Ship fire were found in clusters — some in areas never touched by flame and others amid severely charred debris, according to an investigative report released Monday detailing the difficulties recovery teams faced after the Dec. 2 blaze in the artist collective.
Only seven of the victims were found on the second floor of the converted warehouse, in a section that did not collapse or burn but had extensive smoke damage, according to the report on Oakland’s deadliest fire.
The rest of the victims were found either on the ground floor or in the rubble from the partial collapse of the second floor. All 36 victims died of smoke inhalation.
In two instances, recovery teams found victims wrapped within large rugs that had collapsed from the upper level into the first floor, including onto motor homes parked inside.
“In the space between the two motorhomes a large area rug was suspended among partially collapsed debris from the second floor. Eight victims were recovered from within this rug and next to it,” the report said.
Nearby, atop one of the trailers, three victims were found within another large rug that had fallen with the second floor collapse.
Authorities spent five round-the-clock days combing through rubble before calling off search-and-recovery efforts.
Ghost Ship Warehouse. An image taken from the Oakland Fire Department's report of the destruction inside the warehouse following the December 2, 2016 fire.
The wooden stairs quickly caught on fire stopping people from the second floor from escaping, Thick smoke rapidly filled the warehouse making escape even more difficult.
Image Above - Inside the Ghostship warehouse before the fatal fire. The Oakland fire department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Alameda County Arson Task Force issued a report on June 19, 2017 about the fire. It stated that all 36 victims died of smoke Inhalation. Only one person was seriously injured but not killed. The sheriff's office said, "It appears that people either made it out [safely], or they didn't make it out." It took three days for investigators to recover all of the victims from the building. They removed the fire debris in five-gallon buckets as they sifted through the collapsed second floor. The debris included wooden pallets, statues, piles of furniture, mobile homes, and mannequins. The makeshift hallways on the first floor were constructed of "aggregates of salvaged and scavenged materials, such as pianos, organs, windows, wood benches, lumber, and innumerable other items stacked next to and on top of each other." The live-work spaces were separated by a variety of things, including "wooden studs, steel beams, doors, window frames, bed frames, railings, pianos, benches, chairs, intact motorhomes and trailers, portions of trailers, corrugated metal sheeting, tapestries, plywood, sculptures, tree stumps and tree limbs." Investigators concluded that the fire originated in the northwest area of the ground floor, but were unable to pinpoint the cause of the fire due to the extreme damage to the building and its contents.
Stairway from Second Floor
The route from the stairway to safety was a maze. “I got lost there the first time I went in,” Ms. Brito a former resident said.
Image Above - Shot from the Ghost Ship Halloween party. Photo courtesy of Jake Student. On July 3, 2018, Almena and Harris each pled no contest to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the fire. According to their agreement, Almena was to be sentenced to nine years in jail, and Harris to six. Some family members of those who died in the fire testified and protested the plea deal. Sentencing was set for August 9. But on August 10, 2018, the judge in the case threw out the plea deals, citing that Derick Almena didn't accept "full responsibility and remorse" for the fire that killed 36 people. Almena and Harris now face life imprisonment if convicted by a jury or if a new plea deal is not reached. The judge said that he would have accepted the plea deal for Harris because Harris showed remorse but the plea deal was made with both Almena and Harris.
Derick Almena appeared in court this morning hoping to convince a judge to reconsider a plea deal his defense team struck with prosecutors, but the hearing was postponed to November 9.
Almena is charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in the case of the Ghost Ship fire. The fire killed 36 people who were attending a concert in a warehouse known as the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland in December 2016. Relatives of some of the victims came to court today and say these court dates are very emotional. When the hearing was postponed, Mary Vega said it is "frustrating. I am very frustrated. Let's get this over with." She lost her son, Alex, in the fire. Almena and his co-defendant, Max Harris, were ready to enter pleas in exchange for set prison sentences. For Almena, it would have meant a 9 year prison sentence in exchange for a no contest plea for 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. But the judge rejected the agreement, saying Almena didn't seem remorseful. Almena's attorney says delays are hard on his client, who is ready to move forward.
"He's an emotional wreck. He's never been in jail before, he is gifted artist, he's a very sensitive high IQed individual who is on suicide watch. He is medicated for depression he is locked up for 23 hours day, the food is bad, visitation is limited, he's not taking it well at all. But biggest thing of all is his remorse. He wants to die. He want to show he has remorse. He has gained 60 pounds not because he is eating well but because psychologically he is not doing well. It is very sad, very sad that no one sees the deep remorse he has," said attorney Tony Serra. The hearing about the plea agreement is now set for November 9th 2018.
Image Above - Defense attorney J. Tony Serra stands next to a photo of Derick Almena and his family. | Photos: Scott Morris/Hoodline - The building was constructed in 1930, and was once part of a milk bottling plant, and later a warehouse for metal pipes. The property was purchased in 1988 by Chor Ng, who is linked to 17 other properties in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the fire, the building had already been under investigation by the Oakland Planning and Building Department for "blight" and "illegal interior construction". Complaints of hazardous garbage and construction debris around the building had also been made. Ng rented the property to the final lease holder, Derick Almena, in 2013. At least ten complaints had been filed about the property since 1998, the most recent on November 13 and 14, 2016. City building inspectors visited the warehouse on November 17, but left when no one answered the door. Inspectors are required to obtain permission from owners to gain entry, and when that fails, must seek a court order. A spokesperson for the Planning and Building Department noted that an event like the concert on December 2 would have required a special permit, but none had been issued. The City of Oakland's planning director revealed that the building had not been inspected for three decades.
Ghost Ship Warehouse owner Chor Ng avoiding comment on an earlier KTVU story related to the deadly fire. The owner of the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland where 36 people died in a fire last December was sent a death threat in the mail, according to court documents. Chor Ng, who rented out the warehouse before the fire, received a threat in early October, an amended civil court complaint in Alameda County Superior Court alleges. a request for a protective order was made to keep Ng’s personal information out of public view and limit information to attorneys and those directly involved in the case. Ng’s attorney, Stephen Dreher, claims a document related to commercial building insurance was leaked to the press, which caused “inaccurate coverage” and resulted in the written threat sent to Ng. 2 Investigates did not receive any explanation from Dreher or his associates as to what was inaccurate. In September, 2 Investigates was first to report that Chor Ng was set to receive more than $3M in an insurance payout. No comments and answers to questions have been provided by Ngs’ attorneys, despite repeat requests for comment.
The attorneys claim because the threatening letter was sent through the mail, it’s a federal crime. Court documents explain that letter was turned over to the FBI, where fingerprint and DNA analyses are being conducted.
The FBI claimed it doesn’t have any record of a death threat being reported or examined related to the Ghost Ship case.
Chor Ng, along with her son, Kai Ng, and daughter, Eva Ng, have never been charged. All three played a roll in the management of the property, former tenants explained.
This death threat was uncovered just days after 2 Investigates published a report that explained what the Ghost Ship owners knew years before the deadly fire broke out.
OAKLAND, CA – APRIL 4: Eva Ng leaves the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse on Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Eva Ng along with her brother Kai Ng, and mother Chor Ng own the Ghost Ship warehouse. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group) In their first public appearance since the Ghost Ship warehouse fire killed 36 people two and a half years ago, two owners of the burned out building pleaded the Fifth in court Thursday when asked about their possible role in the notorious inferno. The siblings, Eva and Kai Ng, each took the witness stand in a hearing to determine what evidence should be admitted during the trial of Derick Almena and Max Harris, who have been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from the Dec. 2, 2016, fire. Almena and Harris’ attorneys have argued in numerous court motions and a preliminary hearing that their clients are scapegoats. They have blamed the warehouse’s owners for allowing people to live inside the building and the city of Oakland for ignoring signs that the warehouse was illegally occupied. Although the fire’s cause has not been officially determined, the attorneys also have suggested arson was at play.
OAKLAND, CA – APRIL 4: Kai Ng, center, leaves the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse on Thursday, April 4, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Kai Ng along with his sister Eva Ng, and mother Chor Ng own the Ghost Ship warehouse. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
Eva and Kai Ng were subpoenaed to testify before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trina Thompson. Their mother, warehouse co-owner Chor Ng, was not subpoenaed and didn’t appear in court, but she is on the attorneys’ witness list. It’s not clear whether she will be called during the trial; attorneys cannot answer reporters’ questions about court proceedings because they are under court order not to speak publicly about the case. Since the fire, Ng family members have refused to give interviews and have stayed out of the spotlight. The Ngs have alleged that master tenant Almena broke his lease by renting space to people who lived in the Fruitvale district building, which was zoned for commercial use only. Eva Ng invoked her Fifth Amendment privilege to not incriminate herself on the stand as attorneys took turns questioning her. Prosecutor Autrey James asked her if she entered into a warehouse lease agreement with Nico Brouchard, who co-signed with Almena in 2013 and testified in a preliminary hearing that they wanted to turn the building into an art collective with space for artists.
“I am declining to answer based on my Fifth Amendment privilege,” Eva Ng replied.
Curtis Briggs, one of Harris’ attorneys, then asked if she was aware of any actions that led to the deaths of 36 people or knew that Almena’s lease allowed people to live in the warehouse.
“Is it true you knew people were living in the Ghost Ship?” Briggs asked.
She invoked the Fifth Amendment to each question.
Her brother, Kai Ng, who wore a light gray suit with a white shirt and glasses, likewise pleaded the Fifth to all questions, including whether he was a warehouse property manager and had a property relationship with Almena and Harris. Briggs also asked Kai Ng if he had paid a well-known public relations firm a “large sum of money” or used “political influence” to help ensure members of his family wouldn’t be charged in the case. The Ngs’ law firm hired crisis manager Sam Singer, who has a public relations/public affairs firm in San Francisco. Tony Serra, who is Almena’s lead attorney, asked if the Ngs received a $3 million insurance payment to cover damages from the warehouse fire. He then asked the prosecution to grant them immunity so they could testify. “We are certainly not providing that,” James said. The Ghost Ship trial continues with the first panels of 80 jurors coming in to fill out a questionnaire. Opening statements are expected to take place April 30 and May 1.
The Fifth Amendment creates a number of rights relevant to both criminal and civil legal proceedings. In criminal cases, the Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to a grand jury, forbids “double jeopardy,” and protects against self-incrimination. It also requires that "due process of law" be part of any proceeding that denies a citizen “life, liberty or property” and requires the government to compensate citizens when it takes private property for public use.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Although the building's owner did not intend the warehouse to be a housing accommodation for any of the artists, the city is investigating whether people were living in the warehouse illegally. Ng stated that no one lived in the building, according to a translation by her daughter Eva. However, neighbors reported that it appeared that people were living in the building. One victim, Peter Wadsworth, was a building resident. Although police and fire officials warned that the warehouse was a fire hazard, the Ghost Ship's founder, Derick Ion Almena, allegedly did not respond to these concerns. Almena has stated that he, his wife, Micah Allison, and his three children had slept inside the warehouse. Residents and others reported that he lived with his wife and children on the second floor and rented space to as many as 18 others who lived in recreational vehicles and makeshift rooms on the first floor. The vice president of the local firefighters union said that the fire marshal's office had been understaffed for years, and that a fire inspector seeing the conditions of the Ghost Ship "would have shut the place down". Adding to the discussion, on December 13, the Oakland Fire Chief said "there were no indications this was an active business", that there are no city records showing her department had received complaints about the building and that the department "inspects businesses, not buildings".
One year after the Ghost Ship fire, artists struggle to find housing in Oakland - Reactions
In an interview, Oakland City Council member Noel Gallo said that city officials "need to enforce the codes that we have" and that "we should have been more assertive in the past." The Oakland Athletics baseball team offered to match donations for those affected, up to $30,000; the Oakland Raiders football team soon joined them. The Oakland based Golden State Warriors basketball team announced a donation of $50,000 to the Fruitvale-based Unity Council. The Warriors announced an additional $75,000 donation to relief efforts on December 7, 2016. Warriors player Stephen Curry auctioned off two pairs of his shoes for $45,201 to benefit the Oakland Fire Relief fund. By December 9, 2016 the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts had raised over $550,000 and scheduled a benefit concert for December 14, 2016, featuring Bay Area musicians such as Primus, Tune-yards, and Boots Riley. A Facebook Safety Check was deployed in early December 2016 to help people find the whereabouts of friends and family who might have been in attendance.
Oakland, CA - March 23rd, Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors shoots the ball against the Dallas Mavericks on March 22nd, 2019 at ORACLE Arena In Oakland, California. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Stephen Curry’s custom shoes honoring the victims of Oakland’s Ghost Ship fire were sold at a record price for an active NBA player. A last-second bid for the game-worn Under Armour Curry 3’s — which he had on in the Warriors’ win over the Knicks on Dec. 15 — secured possession of the kicks for $30,101. That’s more than the previous record for a current NBA player: $28,651 for LeBron James shoes from 2005, a sale that happened last December. It also almost doubled the amount ($17,100) that appeared on the site as the highest bid up until just before the 1:25 p.m. closing time. The other custom shoes sold, which Curry donned in pre-game warmups Dec. 15, were sold for 15,100. The proceeds for both sets of sneakers went to the Oakland Fire Relief fund. The Warriors donated $50,000 to the fund and its players and coaches pledged another $75,000 on top of Curry’s contribution of $45,201. The shoes themselves are something to behold. The words “Oakland” and “Strong” are scrawled on the shoes’ front, one on each sneaker. “Always” and “Remember” are on the back, along with the initials of the 36 victims of the fire. “Ghost Ship” is written on the soles of the shoes, which are signed by Curry.
The warmup sneakers, also signed, have “Ghost Ship” drawn in graffiti-style art along with the victims’ initials.
Image Above - Stephen Curry; Golden State Warriors
Josette Melchor is a community organizer, curator, entrepreneur, DJ, Mexican woman programming life at the intersection of art and technology based in San Francisco. She founded Gray Area Foundation for the Arts—a leading nonprofit media arts center—more than a decade ago.
On December 3, 2016, the record label 100% Silk posted on their Facebook page: "What happened in Oakland is an unbelievable tragedy, a nightmare scenario. Britt and I are beside ourselves, utterly devastated. We are a very tight community of artists and we are all praying, sending love and condolences to everyone involved and their families." After the fire, in early December 2016, a man identified as the Satya Yuga collective's founder, Derick Ion Almena, posted on Facebook that the fire had destroyed his warehouse. This post was criticized by several other Facebook users, who noted that the collective's founder had not mentioned anything about the people killed or injured in the fire. Almena later clarified his comments, stating, "In my previous Facebook post, I had no idea there was loss of life." In a brief interview on December 5, he spoke of the families of the victims, saying, "They're my children. They're my friends, they're my family, they're my loves, they're my future." In another interview on December 6, Almena said he was "incredibly sorry" and defended himself against charges of profit-seeking, saying, "This is not profit, this is loss. This is a mass grave." On the night of December 5, 2016, hundreds of people attended vigils in Oakland and San Francisco, in honor of the victims of the fire.
Community mourns victims of 'Ghost Ship' fire at Oakland candlelight vigil
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 05: A man becomes emotional during a vigil for the victims of a warehouse fire that has claimed the lives of at least thirty-six people on December 5, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people attend a vigil for the victims of a warehouse fire that has claimed the lives of at least thirty-six people on December 5, 2016 in Oakland, California.
Families and friends of victims speak during a vigil honoring those who died in a warehouse fire in Oakland, California on December 05, 2016. More than 4,000 people came to offer condolences and mourn the more than 36 lives lost in the tragic fire. / AFP / Josh Edelson (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Family members hold photos of their son during a vigil honoring those who died in a warehouse fire in Oakland, California on December 5, 2016.
Mourners place flowers and candles during a vigil honoring those who died in a warehouse fire in Oakland, California on December 5, 2016.
A mourner places flowers and candles during a vigil honoring those who died in a warehouse fire in Oakland on December 5, 2016. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Tex Allen gives out hugs during a vigil honoring those who died in a warehouse fire in Oakland, California on December 5, 2016. Local residents, including artists and tenants' rights activists, have cited the fire as a symptom of the San Francisco Bay Area's underlying housing crisis. City inspectors have voiced suspicions that dozens of live-work warehouses similar to Ghost Ship exist in Oakland. On December 6, 2016, Mayor Libby Schaaf announced $1.7 million in grant funding to create affordable spaces for artists and arts organizations. She announced a planned revival and expansion of a task force on Artist Housing and Work Spaces, and the creation of a fire safety task force. On December 23, 2016, the parents of two of the victims of the fire filed lawsuits in Alameda County Superior Court, People named in the lawsuit included the building owner, the primary tenant, the event promoter, and a performer at the event. Comparisons were drawn between this fire and the 1990 Happy Land Fire, a nightclub fire in New York City that claimed 87 lives. The Happy Land fire also involved controversial operations of the structure, and suffered from similar conditions including lack of emergency exits and poor maintenance. In June 2017, local artist Chris Edwards built a boat sculpture in memory of Ghost Ship and installed it in the nearby Emeryville harbour, People have used it as a place to visit and leave flowers.
A mysterious pirate “ship” silhouette was sighted along the Emeryville Marina cove on Monday immediately sparking the curiosity of Emeryville neighbors. The piece, it was learned, is intended as a tribute to the 36 lives lost at the East Oakland “Ghost Ship” warehouse fire that occurred six months ago. The artist behind the guerilla piece was identified as Chris Edwards of Richmond. The Ghost Ship tragedy has added to the urgency of affordable housing in our region and the debate over the need to preserve art spaces for our creatives. The Emeryville community has already embraced the installation and has attracted the placement of bouquets of flowers along our shoreline. Assembly of the piece took about $800 of Edwards and a few friends money and was assembled in his home’s backyard. The construction includes a PVC pipe frame over empty plastic drums to keep it afloat. The finished piece was painted black adorned with the message “Let Art Live” and the date of the tragedy. Edwards transported the 15 foot long piece by truck to Emery Point at about two in the morning as to not draw too much attention. He and his team waded into bay and anchored it at about 100 meters out. Edwards returned the day after it was installed to add a second anchor to stabilize the piece. Edwards also notes he is considering adding reflectors, LED lights and possibly some solar powered misters to enhance the evening presence of the installation. “I’d really like people to go to the memorial, leave flowers and their own art, and to enjoy the peaceful bobbing of the boat in the water,” he mentions in the below SFGate piece. Edwards plans to maintain the piece but acknowledged the challenges of the elements that will eventually claim it. “A month, a year – however long it lasts, I hope the message is a positive one.”
Images of the 36 people that lost there lives.
Image Left - Barrett Clark, 35, Clark was a top notch professional sound engineer and a driving force of the Bay area electronic music scene, Clark was working at the Ghost Ship on the night of the fire and sadly died. Michael Buchanan who has collaborated with Clark on various projects said Clark was dedicated to his work and wanted the musicians to sound as good as they possibly could. Both new the Ghost Ship warehouse was unsafe but Clark choose to take the risk because it was outweighed by his intense feelings of generosity.” Clark lived in Oakland but grew up in Santa Rosa, graduating from Santa Rosa High in 1999. A friend called him “a true pillar of the Bay Area DIY music scene for many, many years,” and said he did sound for a living at venues such as the Bottom of the Hill, Mezzanine, The Independent and 1015 Folsom but could also be found hauling heavy gear into remote Sierra Nevada forests. Buchanan said he met Clark 16 years ago at the Autonomous Mutant Festival, an underground music festival held at different Pacific Northwest wilderness locations each year. “He was playing in a band called ‘Polar’ that had this textural and mystical electronic sound,” Buchanan said.
Clark became a core member of Buchanan’s music collective, Katabatik, which he described as a music collective with tendrils through the whole West Coast. In addition to Clark, two other Katabatik members died in the fire: Joey "Casio" Matlock and Jonathan Bernbaum. Buchanan said his friend was “funny and just the most full-of-life kind of person that I’ve ever met,” a vibrant man with “a great love for the outdoors and a fearless sense of adventure.” “It’s like he touched a lot of people on a very personal level without being pretentious,” Buchanan said. “But at the same time he was very talented and he liked to help others out when he could. “He was a great friend and a brother to many of us,” he said, “and he was just hitting his stride.”
Peter Wadsworth was the kind of person who made others feel special, said friends who described him as a creative genius. His longtime friend, Tammy Tasoff, said Wadsworth would buy her video games simply because he knew she loved them. “Usually he’d say, ‘Let’s play video games,’ and then he’d say, ‘No, I just want to watch you play,'” she told the Associated Press, sobbing. “He’d make me food. He took really good care of me. He was like my big brother.” Wadsworth, 38, of Oakland, was among the victims of the Ghost Ship fire, where 36 people died on Dec. 2 and the only victim who had been living at the warehouse. It’s not clear if he attended the electronic dance party on the second floor, where most of the victims died, or if he was at home the night of the fire. Wadsworth, who often posted articles on environmental and health issues, technology and kittens to his Facebook page, was described by those close to him as someone with a wealth of knowledge who constantly blew people away with his intelligence. Originally from Boston, Wadsworth studied psychology at Harvard University and Reed College, according to his Facebook page, where he described himself as an independent consultant.
Friends told the San Francisco Chronicle that Wadsworth had been trying to move out of the Ghost Ship warehouse but that he was unsuccessful.
In May 2015, Wadsworth took to Facebook to search for housing accommodations. “I’ve got a place for a few months, but then homeless, I’m looking for a roommate situation mid/end of august. I’m looking at Oakland, and near rideshare and bus,” he wrote.
Nicholas Walrath launched the next phase of what was already a prestigious legal career, joining Durie Tangri, a small civil litigation firm in San Francisco, as an associate a couple of months before the tragic fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., he was known for his intellect and genuine warmth. He was the valedictorian of Allderdice High School, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. With a B.S. in physics and philosophy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he explored several career paths, including laboratory scientist and atomic physics, before settling on law. In 2013, after he graduated from the New York University School of Law, Walrath and his girlfriend moved to California. Here, he clerked for Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and Judge Carlos T. Bea, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. With his hair worn long, Walrath enjoyed skiing and the Bay Area music scene. On the night of the warehouse fire, he texted his long-term girlfriend, Alexa Adams-Bourke, according to the Associated Press: “fire, I love you.” Authorities found Walrath’s bicycle outside the warehouse.
He had biked five miles to the party that night “in a spontaneous decision to socialize and enjoy music,” according to the Post-Gazette. Judge Tigar said in a statement that Walrath was an “exceptional” law clerk. “Nick brought his brilliant intellect, cogent writing skills, curiosity, and relentless work ethic to everything he did,” the judge said. “Even more than his considerable legal talents, Nick also brought his sterling personality, his generosity, his good humor, and his love of life.” Ragesh Tangri, founder of Durie Tangri, said in a statement, “In the short time he had been at our firm, Nick already had shown himself to be a fine lawyer as well as a good and caring person.”
In her upstairs loft at the Vulcan, in East Oakland, Michele Sylvan was always making clothes — shirts and dresses that she would design, cut out the patterns for, and sew to fit on a dressmaker’s dummy. Otherwise shy and reserved, “She wasn’t reserved about the clothing she made,” recalled a former neighbor named Joshua who declined to give his last name. He said he knew Sylvan as “Colette,” not Michele. He also knew her as “the type of person who didn’t say much but when she did it was always something cool and often something very profound.” She lived for several years at the Vulcan Lofts with her partner, Wolfgang Renner, 61, who was also a victim of the disaster. They entertained and loved to dance, “and if there was an event, they came dressed to the nines.” Both Sylvan and Renner were the last people to be found in the gutted warehouse and had been a couple since 2001. “She was a wonderful person, one of the best tenants I’ve had in my 15 years of managing property,” said Elecia Holland, who manages the Vulcan. “She was a quirky artist and there is not one person I have met who had a bad thing to say about her.” This would be true of anyone who was ever on the receiving end of one of her massages, which may have been how she made her living, Joshua said. “As a massage therapist, she was the best one I ever had,” he said. “She was magic.” Sylvan also liked to sing, and Holland said she wrote songs. Joshua, a photographer, once did a photo shoot of Sylvan modeling her clothes, but he never heard her discuss clients or marketing. “She was pretty private about her stuff,” he said. “It never came up who she sold to. She was just always working on it.”
One thing he is sure of: “She never made the same thing twice.”
When Jonathan Bernbaum died in the Ghost Ship fire last December, his family had several choices. They could be angry, they could sue, they could mope, And yet they chose another path. The Berkeley family decided to find whatever small ray of goodness they could from Oakland’s worst fire in city history and they set out to effect positive change. Now, the entire family – parents Diane and Ed Bernbaum and brother David – are deeply involved in keeping the memory of Jonathan Bernbaum, 34, a talented visual projection artist alive. They are doing this by establishing a memorial fund to grant innovative artists’ in the Bay Area small grants to pursue their passions, and by fundraising to eventually buy property to rent to artists for an affordable price. But first, before these grander projects came to life, David Bernbaum and his friends did something small, but tangible. They gave all of Jonathan Bernbaum’s material objects away. “We were thinking very much of the Tibetan tradition of a sky memorial, where the birds come and every bird comes and take a little piece,” David Bernbaum said. “One of the things that really took the sting out was getting to disperse all of his equipment that he’d assembled to people in the community.”
Giving away his projectors and his videos and even his clothes felt “almost like an organ donor,” David Bernbaum said. The family even gave his highly produced videos shown by the Austrian band Knife Party to the video DJ who took Bernbaum’s place after his death. “And that made us feel really good knowing that his work was continuing to be seen,” David Bernbaum said. The Bernbaums want the works of other artists to be seen, too. His alma mater, the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, set up a scholarship in his name. But his mother and brother wanted to specifically be able to give money, $2,000, to Bay Area artists whose work “demonstrates innovation in their field.” The fund was created in partnership with the East Bay Community Foundation, and applications were due Nov. 1. The winner will be announced in December. And finally, Ed Bernbaum, working with attorney and neighbor Beth Jay and architect Tom Dolan, have been working to find a warehouse, or several of them, to buy, clean up, get the place the proper permits and then rent those spaces to artists at an affordable price. Ed Bernbaum realizes that the Ghost Ship fire occurred because the venues for artists to create and experiment is most often out of reach because of skyrocketing rents.
“A lot of people knew the Ghost Ship was a dangerous place, but there were fewer and fewer venues to go and do this kind of thing,” Ed Bernbaum said. The group, which they've named Vital Arts, is seeking donations from a variety of sources in the community, including major corporations. They have met with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who offered to help set up a meeting with large donors. Vital Arts is focused on long-term projects that will take years to get off the ground. The organization is starting by selecting smaller pilot projects within the next two years, in order to have 20 to 30 live work spaces and several performance spaces available within five years. The goal is to have many more safe, affordable spaces available in 10 years. One of those projects is already getting off the ground - a live-work warehouse at 30th W. Street, which the city of Oakland is prepared to give a zoning variance to so that 13 artists can reside there.
Image Left - Diane Bernbaum, left, and her husband Ed are photographed with a portrait of their son Jonathan Bernbaum on Thursday, Nov. 02, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. - “All sorts of people come to this from all sorts of walks of life including people who work for Google and Salesforce,” Ed Bernbaum said, noting that it’s not just starving artists who like to go to electronic dance parties. “So I thought, what about trying to get substantial support from really large corporations in a really positive way to really make an impact? How about raising money from large corporations to have a real impact so that arts and culture can continue to thrive here?” He added that the work his family members have poured themselves into has been beneficial for them, too, and it’s much better than sitting around and stewing. “Most of the time I’ve been energized,” he said, “and life goes on. There’s nothing we can do to bring Jonathan back. But there is something we can do to honor his memory. Working on this for us is inspiring. Otherwise, all this vitality would be lost.”
Jennifer Mendiola could dance like no one else. She had a “little goth flair.”
And in 2017, she would have been Dr. Mendiola when she received her doctorate in health psychology from UC Merced. Jennifer's husband Jean-Thierry Mendiola was in agony while he waited for news of his loved one and was suffering terribly said his sister Anne Mendiola. The couple had been married for eight years. They separated a few months ago, but were in marriage counseling in hopes of reconciliation. During the separation, she dated Micah Danemayer, a 28-year-old electronic musician who also died in the fire. When they were together, she and her husband loved to go to ’80s-themed venues to dance. She was the star. “Whenever she danced, everyone in the room would stop what they were doing and look at her, because she was the most beautiful thing in the room,” Anna Mendiola said. For the past few years, Jennifer Mendiola had split time between the couple’s Oakland home and UC Merced, where she was on the verge of completing her studies.
“It’s just horrifying. She was almost finished. She had all her coursework done,” Anna Mendiola said. “You can’t even imagine how tirelessly she worked.” She hoped to become a professor in health psychology, said a colleague at Merced, Ruben Castaneda. She did her undergraduate studies at San Francisco State University and earned her master’s in psychology at California State University Sacramento. “She was always happy, smiling, bright,” Castaneda said. “She was a great academic, always working really hard on getting research done. She had a very clear path and focus on what she wanted to do.” As she worked on her doctorate, Mendiola gave talks and wrote papers on topics ranging from social relationships and loneliness to emotion regulation during chemotherapy for breast cancer. She also co-authored an op-ed (An op-ed, short for "opposite the editorial page" or "opinion editorial", is a written prose piece typically published by a newspaper or magazine which expresses the opinion of an author usually not affiliated with the publication's editorial board.) in the Los Angeles Times on risks faced by Latinos who resist getting flu shots. In between all that, she found time to travel overseas. This year, she visited Thailand and Istanbul. “She was fearless,” Anna Mendiola said. “But she didn’t view it that way. She just viewed herself as living life.” And “she had an amazing sense of style,” her sister-in-law said. “She could go into any thrift store and in minutes find the coolest and most amazing thing to wear there. ...
Jason McCarty, 35, grew up in Fort Madison, Iowa, a small town on the Mississippi River where everyone knew everyone. From an early age, he impressed friends and neighbors with his drawing skills. “He was incredibly talented. You could tell what he was drawing came from the deep recesses of his mind,” said Chris Escobar, 36, who rode bicycles around town with him as a child, adding they were close in high school and stayed in touch until McCarty died.
McCarty, of Oakland, was approachable and well-liked.
“He can go from down-to-earth to extremely deep. It was like he was always really deep but would come to the surface when he needed to interact with others,” said Escobar, who lives in Tyler, Texas. “The most normal weird guy you would ever meet. And you say weird in a loving way.” Pat Eaves said McCarty and her son, Troy, drew for hours together growing up. They played Little League baseball together. McCarty graduated the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, said school spokeswoman Tracy Newman.
“He was the most inspiring person in the world,” Escobar said. “He didn’t know the impact he had on people.”
Guitarist and electronic musician Billy Dixon told friends he was studying microbiology in college because he wanted to create tiny dolphins and whales to put in fish tanks. “We laughed a lot because it was a joke,” says Robert St John Price, a friend of Dixon’s of about 15 years. “But deep down I’m certain he was being 100-percent serious.” That was who Dixon was -- a quirky, 35-year-old who was one part entertainer and one part mad scientist. When making music on computers became widely accessible, Dixon was all over it. And his creations had a distinctive sound. He never did create tiny dolphins. But wherever he was, Dixon sought out spaces where he could create. “He had the amazing ability to hole away for entire nights without any social interaction in his recording studio or electronic workshop he stuffed into the giant spare closet,” Price says. When Dixon was 19, he and his friend Jonny Gunton would drive to an apartment in East Cleveland between jobs to work on making a hip-hop record. Dixon took on the beat and Gunton was on vocals. “Being 19 was weird,” Gunton says. They were both just trying to figure life out. Music was their vent. When Gunton first got to really know Dixon, they were both taking guitar classes at a local church in Ohio. “I remember being like ‘Wow, he’s really good,'" Gunton says. "And he didn’t even have to try that hard.” Dixon was a quick study who was always happy to share his knowledge with others. It came naturally to him, Gunton says. Dixon was the kind of guy who was so organically talented in music that it was almost frustrating to watch. “He just had it,” Gunton says.
Dixon surrounded himself with art. “He was always present at the small gatherings and fine art shows and gallery openings,” Price says. “These were intimate experiences.”
Up until the day he died in the Oakland warehouse fire, Dixon was always searching out new and interesting spaces to make and share in art. This was the impulse that drew him to the Ghost Ship warehouse. “He was just one of those people you know who’s in your orbit your whole life,” Gunton says.
Ara Jo was a 29-year-old visual artist who filled walls with bright, colorful murals and enjoyed friends, books and online magazines. “She was a very, very social girl,” said Han Park, Jo’s uncle, who arrived from Los Angeles to get word of his niece on behalf of her parents, who are residents of South Korea. “Too many friends.” Friends said she was friendly, funny, dynamic, creative and always cheerful. Jo, according to her Facebook page, was from Los Angeles, lived in Oakland and was an employee of the Ink Stone, a Berkeley art and drafting supply store. She also worked at an Oakland clothing boutique and was a co-organizer of the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest, an annual street celebration of the written word. “We love you, Ara Jo,” the festival posted on its site. Friends recalled how she volunteered with Oakland high school students on a silk screening project, and how she found a used, hand-decorated North Carolina jersey to give to a newly-arrived acquaintance from that state. Her friend Alexa Pantalone posted on social media that she last saw Jo the day before she died.
“She would always go out of her way for friends and she was always giving. She was one of the most inspiring, talented, funny and caring people. She was family to so many. I can’t imagine Oakland without her,” Pantalone posted.
Photographer Amanda Kershaw liked to tell her friends after taking their pictures at underground concerts, “Fridays are for dancing!” She was fond of photography, of walking around town, of insects and of fighting for the environment. She liked loud music in close quarters. And her black Canon Rebel camera always seemed to be strapped around her neck. Amanda had a freelance photography business called Panda Snaps, and her skills as a photographer skillfully captured the essence of her subjects — a bridegroom nervously straightening his tie, a ballet dancer in mid-leap with legs horizontal, a DJ hovering above a turntable, a sweaty boxer preparing to launch a punch, a closeup of a frosted brown cupcake on a porcelain pedestal.“Photography was her passion,” said her husband, Andrew Kershaw. “She loved it. And she fell in love with San Francisco.” Amanda Kershaw, who was 34, grew up and attended high school in Chelmsford, Mass., northwest of Boston, and graduated from Bridgewater (Mass.) State University in 2004 with a degree in sociology. She came to San Francisco with her husband on Dec. 2, 2008 — exactly eight years before the fire that took her life.
She soon found work at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, as an administrator in the entomology department. Before arriving at the museum, she had no particular passion for insects, but she learned to appreciate them, her husband said, and would invite friends on personal tours of the academy’s world-renown insect collection. “She’d show us all the specimens, and she had a good time doing it,” he said. Wandering around San Francisco ignited her passion for photography. Her husband bought her a professional camera.
“She never had an interest before that,” he said. “She had no formal training. She was entirely self-taught. But she was able to capture people as their authentic selves. That’s what they always told her, anyway. Then they’d use her pictures on their profiles.” Her pictures often focused on music and dance shows. Her portfolio included a series of pictures of the hands of DJs floating above enormous control panels full of buttons and switches. She called those shots “gear porn.”
Image Above - James “Osby” Robles with the late Amanda Allen Kershaw at an underground rave in Emeryville in 2015. Photo: Osby James Robles -
“I’ve always been fascinated by DJ hands,” Amanda Kershaw wrote. “The flick of a fader, the twirl of a knob, the mood of the dance floor at the will of twists and presses. Mixers and turntables are some of the instruments of choice for these nightlife heroes, conjuring beats in the midnight hours and beyond.’’ After leaving the museum in 2011, she worked for five years as a manager at the Trust for Conservation Innovation, an Oakland foundation that provided support and nonprofit status for small environmental groups.
She is survived by her parents, Linda Regan and Paul Allen, her twin brother, Patrick, and two other brothers, Christopher and Brandon, all of Massachusetts.
“She was always the first one to show up on the dance floor,” said her husband. “Even if she was the only one. She’d always be there.”
Those who were close to Griffin Madden, 23, say that he disliked the aphorism “YOLO” -- “You Only Live Once” -- and much preferred “YOLF”: “You Only Live Forever.”
This outlook is clearly encapsulated in a description from Madden’s girlfriend, Saya Tomioka, about a date the couple enjoyed together in New York City: “We spent the whole night laughing our asses off during The Book of Mormon on Broadway,” Tomioka writes on Facebook. “I can still feel your laughter shaking my seat. Then you tried to impress me by buying a pretzel and bargaining the seller to drop the price by a dollar. Then we walked to Times Square. I can still feel the rush of life from that very moment. The lights filled my heart with excitement; the massive number of people energized every fiber of my being. And right beside me was my best friend, my brightest love.”
Madden graduated from UC Berkeley in 2015 with a double major in philosophy and Slavic languages and literature. He spent two summers participating in a program at Middlebury College, throughout which he spoke exclusively in Russian. He recently won a full-time position at UC Berkeley’s performing arts presenter Cal Performances as an audience services associate after ushering at the venue for five years. As a part of the collective Tri Works, Madden often made mixes to post to Soundcloud and DJed parties in the Bay Area. Three days after the warehouse fire, he was scheduled to DJ in San Francisco with Golden Donna and Cherushii, two musicians on the bill at Ghost Ship the night of the fire. Friend Sean Sumler says Madden possessed infectious positivity and great creativity. As a DJ and passionate clubber, Madden's passion for music extended across many genres, including jazz, choral, classical and world music. “During one show where I performed in San Francisco, I remember Griffin dancing directly in front of me and my table,” Sumler says. “While he danced, it was obvious that he and I had the same investment in making the room move.”
An artist who knew Madden and asked not to be named remembers a night at The Lab. “I believe it was Griffin's first time to The Lab and he was just in utter paradise,” she says. “He was so excited about everything that was happening, and everyone who was there, and how fabulous and talented they all were. I haven't met many people who were nearly as excited to be amongst art, talent and friends like he was. I hung out with him for a while that night talking about his school and philosophy. He was really interested in Heidegger and we got talking about that for a long time. He was an extremely smart, gifted young man that brought everyone he met joy.” “That’s the spirit and the way we choose to remember Griffin,” says Madden’s father, Mike, who describes his son an original thinker with an unquenchable curiosity. Father and son often engaged in long philosophical discussions sparked by questions like, "What is the meaning of time? And does time even exist?" “Your light touched so, so, so, many people, and you taught/will continue to teach us to live our lives just as fully, youthfully and kindly as you did,” writes Tomioka on Facebook. “I promise you that I will never stop dancing; I'll dance even harder. I will never stop laughing; I'll laugh even louder. I will never stop loving; I'll love even prouder.”
To her family, Vanessa Plotkin was “Ness.” Or rather, “HappiNESS, MessiNESS and SuperNESS.”
“I had fun with her name,” said Gary Plotkin, Vanessa’s father. “She was so good-natured, lovely and accepting. She’s in all of our hearts.”
In the hours after the Oakland warehouse fire, the UC Berkeley junior’s family struggled to reach her. The 21-year-old wasn’t answering text messages or phone calls.
The last message her mother had received from her, the day of the fire, was an emoji with heart eyes and a heart. The next morning, her twin sister Victoria kept calling from New York City. She had last heard from Vanessa around 11 p.m. Friday, a half-hour before the tragedy that took 36 lives. On Tuesday, authorities confirmed that Plotkin had died in the fire along with her roommate and friend, Jennifer Morris, also a junior at UC Berkeley. Plotkin, of Lakewood in Los Angeles County, was studying sociology. “We are beside ourselves,” Gary Plotkin, said. “This is just like a nightmare. I can’t believe it.”
At a vigil Thursday on the UC Berkeley campus, Victoria Plotkin expressed her shock and devastation at losing her twin.
“Vanessa was my twin sister, she was my best friend,” she said. “She was my light. She was my sun. “We had just moved her here in August,” said her mother, Valerie Plotkin, “and I didn’t expect to be coming back for this type of gathering. She continually inspired me.”
Her family posted homages to her online. Her brother, Gavin Plotkin, uploaded an artistic shot of Vanessa. She stared defiantly at the camera, eyebrows arched and hair pulled up in a half bun. “I love you baby sis, you will remain forever in my heart,” he said. Vanessa Plotkin, 21, was a third-year student at the University of California-Berkeley, where she was majoring in sociology, and volunteering at the campus radio station, KALX. A family friend said Plotkin grew up in Lakewood, Calif., with a twin sister and two brothers. The friend described the sisters as sweet, very lovely and smart girls.
Hanna Ruax was a radiant always happy and smiling sort of person who was talented and gentle, Ruax, of Helsinki, Finland, had been living in Oakland from November of 2016 just shortly before the Ghost Ship fire so tragically took her life. Her fiancee was called Alex Ghassan and they both loved music and had decided to attend the the electronic dance music show at the Ghost Ship warehouse in the Fruitvale neighborhood that Friday 2nd December. It was supposed to be just another night out. They had plans to marry and to go to Europe, But neither made it out alive, She was 32, and her fiancee was 35. “No words,” her father, Yrjö Timonen, posted on Facebook. “Just great sorrow.” And later, a photo of Ruax in a bubblegum pink T-shirt with the caption, “My angel and my princess. Eternal longing and memory.” The Embassy of Finland and the Alameda County coroner confirmed her death.
This Reggae Yoga mixtape is the live recording from Hanna Ruax's memorial Reggae Yoga session.
Kirsi Piha-Timonen holds a photograph of her daughter, Hanna Ruax,
Ruax was an entrepreneur, selling upcycled jewelry and styling services under her business, Nannanda, Ruax was also a yoga instructor, entrepreneur and social justice activist, She made earrings out of old bracelets and recycled leather. Bicycle rims, used yarn and reindeer horns were wrangled into wall hangings. Ruax was a gentle soul but a spirited activist, friends said. She taught yoga and tried to eat vegan. Once, after a Neo-Nazi rally in Finland, she organized a protest against the group. She was against the Dakota Access Pipeline and attended marches supporting peace in Syria. Her Instagram account was filled with photos of art, graffiti, food and bracelets linked around her tattooed arm. Many were of her dog, a brown and white pup named Onni. And she loved Ghassan, a filmmaker. The couple had been dating long-distance since last year, when they had met through work. He jokingly called her ‘Young Mumi,’ her rapper nickname. He made her feel beautiful, worthy, talented and precious, she said.
Hanna Ruax, artist and entrepreneur from Finland, died with her fiancé in the Oakland fire.
They took his daughters to the Oakland Museum of California and painted each other’s faces for a trip to Children’s Fairyland. Ghassan once shared a photo of Ruax with the caption, “Find someone you love and admire before you die.” Her fiancee once surprised her with a gift: a teal bike with a brown wicker basket. She rode it down 10th Street in Oakland, hair blowing in the wind. Their most recent adventure had been to San Francisco, to the Superior Court of California. Ruax wore a loose white blouse and smiled from inside a courtroom. “Objection your honor,” she wrote as a caption, It was the last photo she posted.
The reggae yoga segment was instructed by Kipa Mikkola and Selecta Andor mixed the selections live during the practice. In this mixtape you can find many of Hanna's favourite reggae songs.
A long time reggae lover Hanna travelled to Jamaica on 2014 spring and after her return to Finland she decided to keep a reggae yoga sessions with live dj at her yoga studio Pihasali.
One of the most special things about Nicole “Denalda” Renae, 29, was her curiosity, says Michelle Campbell. “It was a never-ending curiosity to make unique sounds from the synth,” Campbell says. “She was like a mad scientist in a lab.” Campbell managed Introflirt, the band that Denalda -- that’s the name she went by -- and music partner Ben Runnels created together. Their singular sound blended her synthesizer with his 1940s crooner voice, tipping a hat to the past while creating a fresh sound they called “croon-wave.” Both Denalda, who was born Nicole Renae Siegrist in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Runnels died in the Oakland warehouse fire. “The keyboard was like an extension of herself,” says Daniel Wayne Lugo, a performance and visual artist who goes by “El Maldito.” He got to know Denalda over the last few years as they attended each other’s performances and showings. “She got locked on the rhythm and held it,” El Maldito says. “You kept your eyes on her, like, what’s she going to do? It was a super-intriguing kind of performance.”
Vafa Donorous (Nicole “Denalda” Renae) & Ben Benjamin Runnels of Introflirt - In an RIP message to Introflirt on Facebook, El Maldito describes the band as, “an intense duo who were embarking on a great musical journey. Humbled to have shared artistic spaces with them and witness their craft shine like the solid people they were. Blessings.” The name of the band, Introflirt, was a combination of Denalda and Runnels’ personalities, She rechristened herself Denalda Renae (or sometimes "Sea Crust"), and in addition played synths, Runnels, who was introspective, leant his character to the first part of the band’s name. Denalda characterized the second: “Denalda was the outgoing, flirtatious individual, very playful,” Campbell says. She had a theatrical presence onstage, fueled partly by the mystery of what she and her friends had styled that night for her outfit. The first time Campbell saw her, Denalda was a blond with a neckline down to her waist, and the last show Campbell saw her in, she was straight out of the cast of Dallas, in a red top with puffy shoulder pads. Denalda had a vast assortment of wigs, and her appearance changed so often that friends sometimes didn’t recognize her.
“Denalda was fiercely creative, fiercely individual and fierce in her opinions, free-spirited, super-loving and very excited to be doing what she was doing," Campbell says. “She was constantly honing her skills, she was taking piano classes at Laney College up until this past week.” Denalda had also worked at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland, which paid tribute to her in auditorium signage and on the marquee. Probably the most telling detail about the success of Denalda’s music is that people gave it their full attention, friends say. El Maldito says the last time he saw Introflirt was six or seven months ago at the Legionnaire Saloon in Oakland. Most of the crowd had come to hear the out-of-town headliners that night. But Introflirt’s performance was so dynamic, he says, that a lot of people left when the duo finished. “Introflirt took the whole place down,” El Maldito says. “They were very magnetic. They had that presence to pull you in so much you forgot who else was going to play. People were dancing the whole time.”
El Maldito says Denalda was as humble and supportive of other artists as she was a powerful artist herself. She could say with a look that she cared what other artists were doing. “She had big eyes that would look at you and give you strong affirmation, like, ‘I see you. I’m glad to be here with you,’” El Maldito says. The best way to honor Denalda's memory, says Campbell, is to engage with Introflirt's music. “Dance to their music,” Campbell says. “Listen to it, tell your friends about it. Because this is what they did.” Campbell says Denalda’s parents have asked for no media contact, and have authorized friends to speak on their behalf.
Alex Vega, 22, and his girlfriend, Michela Gregory, 20, went to the Ghost Ship warehouse on Friday, December 2nd to dance. The two had been dating for five years and, by friends’ accounts, loved music, art, and each other. "Honestly, I believe they were made for each other," Vega’s best friend Alex Vargas told the East Bay Times. Vega and Gregory both worked at Duggan’s Serra Mortuary in Daly City. Vega also worked as a valet attendant for Peninsula Parking, UCSF and was raised in San Bruno, where he still lived with his parents to save money. Vega graduated from Capuchino High School in 2012. “Alex was very shy when you first met him," says Lucero Govea, a wellness counselor at Capuchino who was close with Vega. "But once you got him to open up he had so much to share."
Memorial mural of Michaela Gregory and Alex Vega. Vega was interested in painting, graffiti fashion, design, photography and hip-hop music, with friends, he helped to organize underground rap shows in the Bay Area. He also loved cars, and had saved up enough money to buy his dream ride last year: a 1999 silver Mazda Miata. After the fire, that car was still parked at the San Bruno BART station where the couple had left it before the party. The day after the fire, standing outside the burned out remains of the warehouse on 31st Street, Vega's brother Daniel spoke about how close he was with his “baby brother,” despite the 14 year age difference between them, and how much family meant to Vega.
"He was a quiet and artistic young man, who loved his family very much,” Govea says. "He still had so much more to share."
Hundreds gather in San Bruno to honor couple lost in Ghost Ship fire, Alex Vega and Michela Gregory | abc7news.com