Teens, young artists among California warehouse fire victims

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Teenagers, the son of a sheriff’s deputy and young artists who loved music were among the dozens of people killed when a fire tore through a converted Oakland warehouse during a dance party.

The death toll from Friday night’s fire climbed to 36 on Monday with more bodies still feared buried in the rubble.

The victims included 17-year-olds and people from Europe and Asia, Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said. Here’s a closer look at who they were:

A GREAT FRIEND

A tearful Tammy Tasoff, 29, called Peter Wadsworth a best friend who was like an older brother to her.

The dental student said Wadsworth always looked out for her, doing little things that made her life easier. He would organize her messy files, give her advice and fix her computer if she needed help, Tasoff said.

He bought video games because he knew she loved them, and he would often watch her play, she said.

“Usually he’d say, `Let’s play video games,’ and then he’d say, `No, I just want to watch you play,”‘ she said, sobbing. “He’d make me food. He took really good care of me. He was like my big brother.”

PLAYED WITH A BAND

Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, was a 2013 graduate of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he concentrated in American Studies. He also was a graduate of Coronado High School in Southern California.

The Alameda County Coroner’s Office identified him as one of the fire victims.

While in Rhode Island, Gomez-Hall worked with Brown University’s Swearer Center for Public Service as a site coordinator for an after-school program at an elementary school, The Providence Journal reported.

He also played guitar and sang with a band called Nightmom.

Friends who knew Gomez-Hall through the music scene said Monday he had recently moved back to California, the newspaper reported.

OTHER VICTIMS

The city of Oakland identified some of the other people killed as Cash Askew, 22, David Clines, 35, Travis Hough, 35, and Donna Kellogg, 32, all of Oakland; Sara Hoda, 30, of Walnut Creek; and Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, of Hayward.

Officials said they have identified an eighth victim but are withholding the name because the person was 17 years old.

One of the people killed was the son of a local deputy, Kelly said at a news conference Sunday. He did not release the name.

On Monday, many friends and family members were still anxiously awaiting word of their missing loved ones as the laborious search for remains continued. Some gathered outside a sheriff’s office for news.

FRIEND FROM FINLAND

Among the missing are Alex Ghassan and his fiancΘe, Hanna Henrikka Ruax.

Ghassan is a director and producer who worked with Spike Lee and Talib Kweli. He also is the father of twin toddlers.

Ruax was visiting from Finland.

The pair had been dating long-distance, and Ghassan was preparing to move to Europe, said his roommate Vikram Babu. “He was fed up with the U.S.,” Babu said.

Ghassan previously lived in Orange, New Jersey. He lived in Oakland on and off for about a year, Babu said.

His mother, Emilie Grandchamps, told WABC-TV that Ghassan often went out of his way to help other artists.

Before the fire, Ghassan posted video of the warehouse party on Instagram. “Oakland reminds me of (hash)JerseyCity so much at times,” he wrote.

DANCER WHO LOVED MUSIC

Friends and family were holding out hope that photographer Amanda Allen, 34, would be found safe.

They said Allen, a Chelmsford, Massachusetts, native, is as a dancer with a passion for music, The Lowell Sun reported.

“We are all praying for a miracle and coming together as a family,” said her mother, Linda Smith Regan.

Allen’s husband, Andy Kershaw, a DJ, called her vibrant and magnetic.

Allen graduated from Bridgewater State University in 2004. She and Kershaw moved to San Francisco from Boston in 2008.

Chelmsford native Shannon Fisher said Allen is a photographer who took ballet as a child, and later embraced “that underground musical life.” Fisher described Allen as smart and funny, with a laugh that comes easily.

A photography website belonging to Allen says she shoots portraits and events.

A BEAUTIFUL SOUL

Andy Kershaw said his friend and fellow DJ Johnny Igaz also was unaccounted for.

Igaz reportedly was playing a set when the fire broke out. He was listed on Facebook as a record buyer at Green Apple Books and Music in San Francisco. His Facebook page was littered with tearful posts from friends who called him a beautiful soul and a true friend.

Yuri Kundin of San Francisco said he was waiting for word on his friends Alex Ghassan and Hanna Henriikka Ruax. He hasn’t heard from the couple in the past few days and has plastered notes looking for them on social media. Henriikka Ruax is from Finland.

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