Oakland Warehouse Fire Victim Brandon 'Chase' Wittenauer Was 'Happy and Thriving' in Artist Community

"You couldn't help but love Chase," friend Amanda Fish tells PEOPLE

Musician Brandon “Chase” Wittenauer was “happy and thriving” in the artists’ community devastated by the tragic Oakland warehouse fire that claimed 36 lives Friday night, a friend says.

Wittenauer, 32, was an electronic musician who performed under the stage name Nex Iguolo and as part of the band Symbiotix.Fungi. His friend of 15 years, Amanda Fish, remembers him as “a sweet and sensitive artist [who] embodied love and positivity.”

“He had found his place in life and the Oakland artist community and was happy and thriving. He saw art in everything around him,” Fish wrote in a statement to PEOPLE. “He loved other people and people adored him. He was the life of the party.”

Brandon Chase Wittenauer
Source: Brandon Chase Wittenauer/Instagram

Wittenauer grew up in Santa Maria, California, before moving to Union City where he met Fish at James Logan Central High School.

“We’ve known each other for 15 years and while other friends have come and gone, Chase was the most deep, loyal, understanding, dependable person that I wanted in my life forever,” Fish wrote. “He did not have a mean bone in his body. He was incredibly positive.”

“His heart was warm and kind. He was very handsome, had an adorable smile, and warm energy,” she continued. “You felt wonderful and lucky to know someone that cool.”

Wittenauer is remembered as a dedicated artist who always supported his friends’ art.

“He encouraged the talents and dreams of his friends too,” Fish said.

In a Facebook tribute, friend Jamaica Rose Chavez-Xochitl remembered always seeing Wittenauer “out showing up at art shows and music events to support his friends, even hometown friends he hadn’t seen in years.”

“He deserved so many more years,” she added.

Fish says Wittenauer loved his family, including sister Danica, who lives in the Bay Area.

Another friend, Bobby Loveless, remembered Wittenauer as “one of the most creative and talented musicians I ever had the pleasure of working with,” in a tribute on Facebook. Adding, “he’ll be missed severely by everybody that knew him.”

Wittenauer is one of seven victims identified by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Bureau on the city website Sunday night. The deceased include David Cline, 24; Nick Gomez-Hall, 25; Sara Hoda, 30; Travis Hough, 35; Donna Kellogg, 32; and Cash Askew, 22. Authorities have said at least 36 died in the blaze but only 11 had been identified as of Monday.

Many of the victims, like Wittenauer, were students, artists and musicians who had been actively involved in the Oakland arts scene.

“You couldn’t help but love Chase,” Fish concluded. “I love him so much and a lot of people are feeling a big hole in their life without him.”

  • Reporting by STEPHANIE PETIT
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