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Burning Man Festival: One Man Dead, Another in Critical Condition

Aaron Joel Mitchell, 41, died of fatal burn wounds, another attendee was air-lifted after car hit tent

Man Dies After Running Into Fire at Burning Man Festival

A festival attendee died on Sunday after running into a blaze during Burning Man.

Jim Bourg/Reuters/Newscom

Update: The Burning Man attendee who was hit by a car remains in intensive care, but is in stable condition, according to statement released on Wednesday morning from Nevada’s Pershing County Sheriff’s office. The male victim – whose name is not being released as the incident is still under investigation – was sleeping in a dark tent on Monday night when a Ford flatbed truck drove onto a non-roadway area of the Burning Man festival and crashed into his shelter. The driver stopped her car, flagged down medical assistance and is cooperating with officials during the investigation. 

Nevada’s Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen previously told Rolling Stone the victim was air-lifted from the festival after the accident. 

Prior to that event, a Burning Man festival attendee, Aaron Joel Mitchell, died Sunday morning from fatal burns after running into a fire, according to ABC. Mitchell was taken to UC Davis Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center on Saturday night. 

Mitchell, 41, passed through two perimeters of security personnel during a ceremony in which a towering wooden figure is set ablaze to symbolize rebirth. The Pershing County Sheriff’s office said that “rescuers had to leave [Mitchell] to allow the structure to fall and provide for rescuer safety before they could go back into the flames to extract Aaron from the debris.” Aaron was not under the influence of alcohol and a toxicology screening is pending, the statement said.

The Burning Man organizers issued a lengthy statement offering services for emotional trauma on its website. “Now is a time for closeness, contact and community,” the organizers said. “Trauma needs processing. Promote calls, hugs, self-care, check-ins, and sleep.” The organizers have not responded to multiple requests for comment as of this writing. 

Following the incident, the festival’s other major ritual burning event, the Temple Burn, went ahead as planned on Sunday evening but with extra security measures, Allen says. 

“I was not out there on the Playa, but from what I’m told, they put up some kind of physical barrier, a fence to prevent anyone from gaining access to the Temple while it was burning,” said Allen. “Once you have somebody run in there and burn to death, that raises our concerns that somebody else will try to do it again.” 

This was not the first time that someone has attempted to throw themselves into one of the major ritual fires at Burning Man. “There have been attempts before,” Sheriff Allen says. “It’s part of the mantra of Burning Man: radical self-expression. There have been several times that people have gotten into the fire the next day, when the Man is completely burned, to get into the ash pile and extract pieces as part of their experience at the festival. We’ve had burns to the hands, the feet, the legs.” 

In This Article: Burning Man

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