At least 33 people have been confirmed dead, including teenagers and a deputy’s son, in a massive blaze that gutted a converted warehouse over the weekend during an electronic dance party. The death toll is expected to rise as crews search the wreckage of the two-story building, which burst into flames late Friday night. Roughly 30% of the building had been searched as of Sunday afternoon, Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said in a news conference Sunday.
Kelly called the number of deaths “astronomical.”
Names of six of the eight victims identified by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Bureau were released this evening after their families were notidied. They were: Cash Askew, 22, Oakland; David Cline, 24, Oakland; Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, Coronado, California; Sara Hoda, 30, Walnut Creek, California; Travis Hough, 35, Oakland; Donna Kellogg, 32, Oakland; and Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, Hayward, California. Another victim was a 17-year-old whose name will not be released, according to a statement from the City of Oakland.
Authorities are asking families with missing loved ones to preserve DNA samples as a way of confirming the identities of those who died in the horrific blaze.
Mayor Libby Schaaf said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley had activated a criminal investigation team and that investigators were on the scene of the fire.
The Oakland Fire Department confirmed to the press that they are currently working with a variety of agencies in the aftermath of the tragedy, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, the Oakland Police Department, the Alameda County Search and Rescue, and the American Red Cross, among others.
Kelly asked the public to be patient as authorities look into the cause of the blaze, and continue to search for the missing and the dead.
A Facebook page created for the event became a forum for friends and family of the victims, who posted frantic messages seeking information about loved ones. Those who survived shared their names to show they were safe.