Earlier this month, a warehouse fire consumed an artist-collective building dubbed the “Ghost Ship” during a music performance and party. Tragically, 36 people lost their lives in what many are calling an accident. Some blame the fire on too many people crammed into a small space already riddled with building-code violations. For others, however, calling the warehouse fire an accident isn’t cutting it, and rightly so. Many loved ones of deceased victims and even members of the community are blaming everyone from the warehouse building owner to city officials, claiming that they knew the warehouse was dangerous and should not have been allowed to house anyone to begin with.
Unsurprisingly, lawsuits are just beginning to roll in against a long list of defendants. One of the lawsuits being filed is on behalf of a 20-year-old college student, Michela Gregory, who perished in the fire, along with her boyfriend. Losing a child is tragic enough. Losing one and knowing it could have possibly been prevented is another. That knowledge is one of the driving factors behind Michela’s parent’s filing the lawsuit in the Alameda County Superior Court.
Representatives of the family say that Michela, along with many who perished with her, became trapped on the second floor of the warehouse. According to the lawsuit, she was unable to escape due to a lack of clear exit paths, unsafe conditions, and the jumbled, unorganized configuration of the warehouse.
For many throughout Oakland, California, accidents like the one that occurred at the “Ghost Ship” are unacceptable. Understandably, people want answers and accountability. How did such an event occur? Who’s to blame? Many frustrations have been aimed at the Oakland Fire Department, an organization that some claim should have been aware of the warehouse hazards before the fire because many firefighters attended a music event held at the “Ghost Ship.”
Others in the long list of defendants include the building owner and two landlords, along with an event promoter, a California-based music label, a musician, and other landlords from nearby properties who actually provided a number of services and utilities to the warehouse. The point is, many people were aware of the building’s unsafe conditions but continued to allow people to live, work, hang out, and party in the building. In fact, it was at one of these parties that the fire broke out on December 2.
Because so many people knew about the unsafe conditions of the building, it should come as no surprise that some of the lawsuits rolling in are seeking unspecified damages from the building owner, the two landlords, and many others. Other lawsuits are being filed against the City of Oakland, with families of victims alleging negligence by city officials.
As it stands right now, no criminal charges have been filed, and the tragedy is still being called an accident. As for criminal charges being filed against any of the defendants, the Alameda County District Attorney, Nancy O’Malley, will make that decision when the investigation is complete.