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$33m settlement for Ghost Ship fire lawsuits

Families of those killed in the 2016 fire at unlicensed Californian music venue and artists’ collective Ghost Ship have reached a settlement with local authorities

By IQ on 20 Jul 2020

$33m settlement for Ghost Ship fire lawsuits

Ghost Ship warehouse 20 days after the fire

image © Jim Heaphy/Wikimedia Commons

The city of Oakland has reached a $32.7 million settlement with the families of those killed by the tragic blaze at  unlicensed music venue and artists’ collective Ghost Ship in 2016.

The fire, which was the worst structural disaster in northern California since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, killed 36 people in total, most of whom were at Ghost Ship for an electronic music party.

The Oakland City Council has now authorised the settlements of lawsuits filed by the families of 32 victims.

“This was a horrific tragedy that deeply impacted every corner of our community,” reads a statement from the city attorney’s office. According to the statement, the city decided to settle because of the possible legal costs, and does not acknowledge any liability for the incident.

“This was a horrific tragedy that deeply impacted every corner of our community”

Prosecutors contend that Derick Almena, the master tenant on the warehouse lease, was criminally negligent when he converted and sublet the space as a residence for artists and an event venue.

Almena was charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, with a retrial – following an initial mistrial – scheduled for October. A co-defendant, Max Harris, was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges last year, while the building’s owner, Chor Ng, has not been charged with a crime.

The blaze, which was believed to have been caused by an electrical fire, echoed another tragic incident at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, the same year, which claimed the lives of 64 people.

Last year, prison sentences were handed out to 13 people in conjunction with the Colectiv fire, including the venue owners, pyrotechnic specialists and city officials.

Photo: Jim Heaphy/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)


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