Most victims of Oakland Ghost Ship fire identified, although search continues
on December 5, 2016
Thirty-three of the 36 victims of the Oakland Ghost Ship fire have been identified and about 70 percent of the warehouse has been searched, according to Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern, who warned that the process of combing through the remaining 30 percent will take time as firefighters and rescue workers face difficult conditions inside the structure.
Sixteen families have been notified, and city officials will be contacting others this evening. Three foreign victims, from Finland, Korea and Guatemala, have been identified. Another 50 people remain unaccounted for, but officials warned that they cannot confirm whether those missing were at the party. Mayor Libby Schaaf emphasized that the city’s primary concern is ensuring the safe and efficient recovery of any remaining victims.
Two major areas of the space remain to be searched, including the warehouse’s wall along 31st Street. Late last night, officials put a halt to work inside the building due to structural concerns. While rescue operations resumed early this afternoon, Ahern said that shoring needs to be constructed along the 31st Street wall. The stage area, which Ahern said may be the site of the start of the fire, also has not yet been searched, in part because of the careful and methodical nature with which rescue personnel must approach it.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said that her office has opened a criminal investigation regarding the fire and is committed to preserving evidence, though she refused to speculate on any possible charges.
She warned that the investigation will take time, as investigators follow up on leads from the community and sift through the evidence from the site. “We don’t know what’s there yet,” said O’Malley. “But there are mounds and mounds of debris. It’s a monumental task.”
City officials presented photographs of firefighters preserving debris in buckets, which will be transferred to the District Attorney’s Office for expert analysis. Other photographs showed the structural damage to the building as well as heat maps of the site taken early Monday afternoon.
Schaaf acknowledged concerns raised about the city’s housing crisis, the need to preserve Oakland’s arts community, and negligence among landlords and housing officials. “There will be plenty of time to discuss the plethora of issues this tragedy has raised,” she said, repeating that the city’s immediate priorities are to continue the recovery operation, support grieving family members, and preserve evidence.
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