‘I’m Going to Die’: Loved Ones Texted from Inside Oakland Fire

Oakland fire scene (Elijah Nouvelage / Getty)
Elijah Nouvelage / Getty

Several victims of Friday’s devastating Oakland fire texted goodbye messages to their families from inside the deadly inferno that has so far claimed 36 lives.

On Monday, Sergeant Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, said some of the victims texted, “I’m going to die,” followed by, “I love you,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “We have found people that have died in each other’s arms, protecting each other, holding each other,” Kelly said.

The structure’s deficiencies were well-known, and included questionable electrical hookups, artists using butane torches, and exposed wood throughout. The entire warehouse was filled to the brim with furniture and artwork but had no fire alarm or sprinkler system installed.

On Monday, several hundred people attended a memorial at Lake Merritt for the lives that were lost on Friday.

When Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf took the podium, she was reportedly shouted down and booed with calls for her resignation.

According to BuzzFeed, one attendee shouted, “Disarm the police!” while another chimed in, “Stop victim blaming!”

Schaaf reportedly told the crowd that they would “be having a lot of conversations about safety, and what it means to feel safe,” and asked for individuals to “show up to that conversation the way Oaklanders show up to every conversation.”

However, BuzzFeed notes that she was met with profanities and cries of “Just stop!” before getting booed offstage.


Controversy also surrounds Derick Ion Almena, 46, the man who is considered the brains behind the Oakland warehouse, dubbed the “Ghost Ship.” Five months before Friday’s deadly event, he referred to himself in a Facebook post as “the thriller love child of Manson, Pol Pot and Hitler” and said, “I can proverbally [sic] get away with murder.”

Almena appeared on the “Today Show” on Tuesday to apologize, saying he was “incredibly sorry” for the blaze but deferred blame for the tragedy.

“I’m on here to say one thing; that I am incredibly sorry. And that everything that I did was to make this a stronger, more beautiful community. And to bring people together … I didn’t do anything, ever, in my life that would lead me up to this moment.”

Almena became emotional as he told co-host Matt Lauer, “I’m not going to answer these questions the way you’re presenting them.” Lauer and Tamron Hall asked Almena if he was worried he could be charged. Almenda said, “I would rather get on the floor and be trampled by the parents. I’d rather let them tear at my flesh than answer these ridiculous questions.”

Eight victims have been identified and their names released. Among them was Draven McGill, a 17-year-old choir singer at San Francisco’s Ruth Asawa School of the Arts.

The others identified thus far are Cash Askew, 22, of Oakland, David Cline, 35, of Oakland, Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, of Coronado, Sara Hoda, 30, of Walnut Creek, Travis Hough, 35, of Oakland, Donna Kellogg, 32, of Oakland and Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, of Hayward.

Friday’s fire was the worst nightclub fire in the United States in over a decade. In 2003, a fire at The Station in West Warwick, Rhode Island, resulted in 100 casualties. The inferno was sparked after pyrotechnics set off by the band Great White ignited flammable foam that was used to soundproof the building, setting the club’s ceiling on fire.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter and Periscope @AdelleNaz 


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