A woman’s frantic, anguished Facebook search for friend missing in Oakland fire

Flowers are left near an Oakland warehouse where a fire broke out during a concert, killing 36 people.

Flowers are left near an Oakland warehouse where a fire broke out during a concert, killing 36 people.

(David Butow / For The Times)

When Carol Crewdson heard one of her friends went dancing at the Oakland warehouse, she knew she had to spread the word.

A “big Facebooker,” she began to write.“Oh my god, Sara Hoda is missing in this fire. I kept hoping that if I posted people would tell me she emerged unscathed but as more information rolls in that doesn’t seem to be the case,” Crewdson, 33, wrote. “She confirmed that she was going to the Party at 10:24, and her brother said her truck is still parked outside the venue. She is not in the hospitals and she is not answering her phone. Her employer doesn’t know where she is.”

As the hours went by, she posted updates: “I’m sorry loves, but it looks like she went with the flames. I’ll keep you posted on what happens next. All we can do is wait for the official identification process.”


Crewdson and Hoda met when they started a collective in 2010, a place for traveling artists to land and creatives to rest their heads when they couldn’t afford Northern California’s rising rents. They housed around 25 people at a time, sometimes as many as 32.

“Sara was always really active in that process,” Crewdson said. “She was always an active participant. She was unique.”

Crewdson said she posted on Facebook because the people they helped come from throughout the country. Some live abroad. They needed to know she was missing, she said.

Flowers placed near the site of the Oakland warehouse fire.  Video by Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times

“It was sort of the fastest way to just put it out there. This is a community … people all over world are paying attention to this. I wanted to make sure they all knew,” she said. “I just kept hoping that someone was going to call me and tell me I was full of ... and that Sara was annoyed that we were freaking out about her,” Crewdson said, adding that the desperation of not knowing what happened to her friend left her with a “really sinking feeling.”

The Oakland party’s event page initially released a list of missing people to spread the word. But Hoda didn’t make it on the original list of missing, Crewdson said. She didn’t use Facebook so she didn’t RSVP to the party online, and the event page tracked people based on whether they responded to the invitation.


Hoda’s death hasn’t been confirmed by authorities. But Crewdson said “it’s looking pretty certain at this point” that she is among the victims of the fire.

“There’s no other explanation for her disappearing like that. She wasn’t the type of person who was irresponsible. She wouldn’t just go to a party and just leave her truck there and not come home and not tell anyone when something like this happened.”

Hoda worked as a teacher at a Montessori school, Crewdson said. The two lost touch after their collective closed down.

“She was a really sweet person,” Crewdson said. “She gardened and taught children how to garden.”

City officials confirmed Hoda’s death late Sunday afternoon.


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8:20 p.m.: This article was updated with confirmation of the victim’s death.

This article was originally published at 1:05 p.m.