Oakland Warehouse operator Derick Almena appeared on the “Today” show for an interview Tuesday morning during which he refused to answer questions regarding the fire that has claimed 36 lives.
Almena was running the so-called “Ghost Ship” warehouse in Oakland as a living space and commune for a variety of artists. He also lived there with his wife and children.
Almena and his family were staying in a hotel room on the night of the fire because there was a musical performance at the warehouse and Almena “wanted to let the young people do what they do.” That night the warehouse went up in flames claiming dozens of lives who attended the event.
The warehouse operator joined the “Today” show Tuesday and repeatedly apologized to the victims and family members who lost loved ones in the fire. When asked about whether he held himself responsible, Almena broke down and refused to answer any questions about his involvement.
“It’s not a good morning,” Almena began. “What am I doing here? Can I just say I’m sorry? The only reason why I’m here is to put my face and my body here in front.”
“Am I the man who should be held accountable? Did I build something that… I mean what am I going to say to that? Should I be held accountable? I can barely stand here right now,” he said.
According to city officials, Almena’s warehouse was not up to safety codes making it a dangerous living space for its residents. The Today hosts asked for Almena’s reaction to an account of a previous resident who claimed he took safety risks to increase his own profit. Almena then broke down and refused to answer any more questions.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about me. I don’t want to talk about profiting. This is profit? The loss of mass lives. I’m a father. I laid my three children down there every night. Profit? This is not profit. This is loss. This is a mass grave.”
“I’m only here to say one thing — that I’m incredibly sorry and that everything that I did was to make this a stronger more beautiful community and to bring people together,” Almena said.
“I’m not going to answer these questions the way that you’re presenting them,” he continued. “I’m an honorable man — I’m a proud man. No, I’m not going to answer these questions on this level.”
“I would rather get on the floor and be trampled by the parents,” Almena screamed. “I would rather let them tear at my flesh than answer these ridiculous questions.”
“I am so sorry. I’m incredibly sorry. What do you want me to say, I’m not going to answer these questions. I’m just going to say that I am sorry,” he continued to apologize.