Death toll stands at 36 in Oakland warehouse fire

Published 11:17 am Tuesday, December 6, 2016

OAKLAND, Calif.  — Some people managed to text loved ones goodbye and “I love you” before they died in an Oakland warehouse fire that claimed three dozen lives, officials said, as heartrending reports of victims’ last moments emerged from the most lethal building fire in the U.S. in more than a decade.

Officials said early Tuesday that there was no change in the number of bodies recovered overnight, with the death toll remaining at 36.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy Tya Modeste said of the 36 bodies recovered 26 of their families have been notified. Modeste said another nine bodies have been “tentatively identified.” Officials are still lacking any type of identification for one individual.

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Fire crews resumed search and recovery operations Tuesday morning.

Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Robert Lipp said Tuesday that crews have cleared 85 percent of the “Ghost Ship” building with one corner still inaccessible because it is unstable. Crews hope to stabilize it Tuesday.

Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern told The Associated Press Monday that he didn’t believe there would be additional bodies found.

Officials said they would turn next to investigating the fire, which erupted late Friday during a dance party. It’s unclear how it started. The district attorney warned of possible murder charges as she determines whether there were any crimes linked to the blaze.

“We owe it to the community and those who perished in this fire, and those who survived the fire to be methodical, to be thorough, and to take the amount of time it takes to be able to look at every piece of potential evidence,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said.

Alameda County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly said that some of the victims texted relatives, “I’m going to die,” and “I love you.”

Rescue crews found bodies of people “protecting each other, holding each other,” Kelly said.

On Monday night, hundreds of people holding candles and flowers honored those who died in the fire at a vigil at Oakland’s Lake Merritt.