A California man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison in connection with a fire at an Oakland warehouse in 2016 that killed 36 people.
Derick Almena, 50, pled guilty as charged to 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in January in exchange for the sentence, which a judge approved Tuesday, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said.
Almena was the owner of the warehouse, which was known as Ghost Ship. He used the space to host local artists. However, the D.A.’s office said the space was “substandard” and also used for “illegal raves.”
“Thirty-five out of the thirty-six people who lost their lives in this tragic fire were attending a concert that night. They had no idea just how dangerous the building really was,” D.A. Nancy O’Malley said in a statement. “They went to the Ghost Ship with the expectation of being entertained and returning safely home.”
Almena’s sentence requires him to serve nine years in local prison and three years of mandatory supervision. He has 18 months left of his prison sentence, which he will serve at home with an ankle monitor, the D.A.’s office said.
In court Monday, Almena apologized to the victims and said he was “sick with shame,” according to NPR.
“My shame cannot stand as any defense against what I am responsible for,” Almena reportedly said in a statement to the court via his attorney, Tony Serra. “It is my fault, my terrible accumulation of error, that shaped and built a place so dangerous.”
The Ghost Ship fire broke out in December 2016 during a rave at the warehouse and police spent days searching for missing partygoers who would later be found dead.
Approximately 100 people attended the event, which featured a performance from Madison, Wisconsin-based electronic act Golden Donna. A Facebook page for the party at the time noted that attendees could get their hair and nails done at a “secret East Oakland location,” which was announced the day of the show.
Upon investigation, officials discovered the building had no smoke detectors or sprinklers. It also housed many extension cords and large quantities of flammable materials.
Then-President Barack Obama spoke out about the tragedy, as authorities were still working to find the victims.
“Today our prayers go out to the people of Oakland, California, in the aftermath of this weekend’s deadly warehouse fire – one of the worst fires in the state’s history,” he said in a statement.
“While we still don’t know the full toll of this disaster, we do know that an American community has been devastated, and many people – including young men and women with their whole futures ahead of them – have tragically lost their lives.”