Art Group Manager Clarifies Insensitive Remarks About Oakland Blaze: 'My Heart is Broken'
He later called the victims his 'family.'
The manager of the artist colony where 36 people lost their lives in an inferno over the weekend is clarifying comments he initially made about the blaze viewed as insensitive toward the massive loss of life.
Shortly after the inferno at the “Ghost Ship” warehouse in Oakland, California, Derrick Almena posted on Facebook: "Everything I worked so hard for is gone. It’s as if I had woken from a dream filled with opulence.”
He added: “To be standing now in poverty of self-worth."
Noticeably absent from his remarks was anything having to do with the victims of the blaze, and uproar was swift and fierce toward him.
"You self-absorbed narcissistic piece of s***," was one comment.
Another person wrote: "I hope your heart changes after you read posts from people that are exposing your narcissism. Such a shame is your post. Shame on you."
Almena wrote the post before he knew people had died. He had taken the Facebook post down later in the weekend.
In a statement to NBC News, Alema clarified his comments saying: “In my previous Facebook post, I had no Idea there was loss of life. This tragic event consumes my every moment," he said. "My heart is broken. My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends who have suffered the loss of loved ones.
"My goal has been nothing less than to create an environment for art and creativity in our community. During this investigation please continue to show support and compassion for those affected by this tragedy. The prayers of my family and I go out to the families of the victims."
A reporter from ABC7News in San Francisco found Almena staying at a local hotel with his wife where he paid tribute to those lost in the Friday night fire: “They're my children. They're my friends, they're my family. They're my loves, they're my future. What else do I have to say?”
The building was said to be a labyrinth of artists work spaces. Officials say it did not have the proper permits for a residential or concert space.
Meanwhile, more information about those whose lives were cut so tragically short have come to light.
Cash Askew, 22, was a musician and member of the band Them Are Us Too.
David Clines, 24, graduated from Berkeley with a degree in computer science.
Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, was an administrative assistant at a publishing house.
Sara Hoda, 30, a teacher at a Montessori school, was described as "a woman full of love and life."
Travis Hough, 35, of Oakland, was an arts therapist at a Bay Area school. Also a musician, Hough was a member of the band Ghosts of Lightning.
Donna Kellogg was also a musician. The 32-year-old called Oakland home. In a Facebook thread about the tragedy, friend Stefanie Kalem called Kellogg "an incredible spirit and soul and I will miss her terribly."
Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, of Hayward, California, was an electronic music artist and member of the group Symbiotix.Fungi. In the band, he went by his stage name, Nex Iuguolo.
Draven McGill was the youngest victim of the blaze. He was a high school student in San Francisco. He was just 17.
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