6 months after Ghost Ship Fire, mother feels daughter's death wasn't in vain

- June 2, 2017 will mark six months since the devastating Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland.

36 people were killed in what is  the deadliest fire in California in more than a hundred years. It also exposed deep flaws in Oakland's building inspections system.

Still, six months later, the story of the Ghost Ship Fire is one of profound sadness.   

"That's my Donna. She's a beautiful little red-head. She always will be." said Sue Slocum, the mother of Donna Kellogg.

Kellogg, 32, was studying to be a nutrition consultant when she went to an electronic dance party at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland last December.

She was dancing to one of the DJ's music, Golden Donna, from the 100% Silk collective. 

Then a fire broke out, the most deadly in California since the 1906 earthquake.

Donna Kellogg was one of 36 people who died in that fire, leaving 36 holes in 36 anguished families.

"I don't believe she would have gone had she known that it was so unsafe. There wasn't even a staircase for her to come down," said Slocum.

Donna's mother is one of 30 families so far that have joined in a  lawsuit against among others, the owner of the Ghost Ship, the building manager, PG&E and the City of Oakland.

Mary Alexander, the lead attorney for the families, says she hopes the lawsuit will bring changes nationwide.

"The most egregious part is that an event was being held without a permit. Without safety precautions, smoke detectors, good lighting, good exits to have this event. To have this event and people can't get out and a death trap, it is a conscious disregard of the safety of the public." said  Alexander

"Donna's death, I do not want to feel that it was in vain. There has to be a certain amount of accountability," said Slocum.

Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, who represents the neighborhood at 31st avenue near International Boulevard, said the city dropped the ball.

"In terms of leadership, we just didn't do enough to deal with properties like this one," said Gallo.

But Gallo says the city has been making improvements the past six months.

At the time of the fire the fire department. had just six code enforcement inspectors. The mayor is planning to triple that over the next two years.

" I think the city is trying. And that's important. This takes time," said Alexander.

But even time may not heal all that is broken.

"By telling Donna's story, if that alarms people enough to make a difference, then she hasn't died in vain," said Slocum.

"I loved my daughter. I loved her very much."

With money raised on her behalf through gofundme, Donna's mother has established a scholarship for three nutrition students at Bauman College in Berkeley where Donna was just months away from earning her degree.

Up Next:


  • Popular

  • Recent

Stories You May Be Interested In - Includes Advertiser Stories