California Superior Court in Oakland.

Scott Lettieri/KCBS Radio

'I'm Just So Sad,' Almena Testifies About Ghost Ship Fire

Scott Lettieri
July 08, 2019 - 7:23 pm

OAKLAND — Wearing a dark suit and white shirt, weighing 60 pounds more than when he was arrested and with his long black tied in a pony tail, 49-year-old Derick Almena's first words as he testified were, "I'm tired and I'm broken-hearted."

During his testimony on Monday about the 2016 Ghost Ship fire that killed 36 revelers in an Oakland warehouse, Almena dropped his head and said, "I'm just so sad."

Almena said he felt responsible for the deaths, because it was his idea to host an electronic music festival in the building where he was the master tenant of an artists' collective. 

"I feel like death," he said while choking back tears. 

Related: Former Ghost Ship Tenants Give Contrasting Testimony About Life In Warehouse

But he also said he felt the warehouse was safe after he worked to improve conditions. When asked about the safety of the warehouse Almena said it was the owner's responsibility to comply with the building code.

"I told them improvements were needed. I hired people to tell them that," he testified. 

Almena's attorney, the flamboyant Tony Serra, geared his questions in part toward Almena's compassion and artistic inclinations saying he felt the first day of testimony went well. Prosecutors had no comment. 

Almena's co-defendant, Max Harris, testified last month