Image for Man Dies After Running Into Flames At Burning Man FestivalPhoto: Christopher Michel / Wikimedia Commons

Man Dies After Running Into Flames At Burning Man Festival

Written by Tom Williams on September 4, 2017

A man has died after running into flames at Burning Man festival in Nevada on the weekend.

41-year-old Aaron Joel Mitchell was rushed to hospital with burns after he ran into flames during the festival’s signature ceremony, which includes the burning of a 40-foot effigy of a man — hence the festival’s name.

Police say Mitchell died on Sunday morning at a local burns centre, after he ran through two layers of security personnel in order to run into the flames.

Doctors have reportedly confirmed that Mitchell wasn’t under the influence of alcohol, but a toxicology report is still to come.

In a statement (below), Burning Man organisers say “our community is grieving”, and confirm that they’re working with law enforcement agencies as an investigation is carried out.

“We’re aware this incident has affected not only those who responded immediately on the scene, but also those who witnessed it, and our Black Rock City community more broadly. We are working to make resources available to those affected,” they say.

“Now is a time for closeness, contact and community. Trauma needs processing. Promote calls, hugs, self-care, check-ins, and sleep.”

Burning Man organisers say they cancelled a number of scheduled burns on Sunday, but will continue with their scheduled Temple burn at 8pm local time. They have also directed anyone affected by the incident to contact support hotlines, whose numbers can be read below.

Burning Man Statement

Aaron Joel Mitchell, 41, succumbed Sunday morning to injuries suffered after breaking through a safety perimeter Saturday night and running into a fire at the annual Burning Man event in northern Nevada.

Mr. Mitchell’s family has been advised of his death. Burning Man is working with local and federal law enforcement agencies, and an investigation is currently ongoing.

After being pulled from the fire by Black Rock City fire personnel, Mr. Mitchell was treated on scene, transported to the on-site medical facility, and airlifted to UC Davis Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center. He succumbed after arriving at the burn center.

The Burning Man organization canceled scheduled burns through noon Sunday but will proceed with the scheduled Temple burn at 8 p.m. Sunday night.

We’re aware this incident has affected not only those who responded immediately on the scene, but also those who witnessed it, and our Black Rock City community more broadly. We are working to make resources available to those affected. Here are some available now:

Emotional support teams have been made available to participants and staff. For people on playa, the Zendo Project is providing peer counseling at their space at 5:15 & A. Support staff from our Emergency Services Department’s Crisis Intervention Team are stationed at 3:00 & C, 9:00 & C, and 5:30 & Esplanade. Please seek them out.

If you are not on playa and are feeling the need to talk to someone, don’t wait. You can reach 24/7 crisis and suicide hotlines at 1-800-273-8255 or 775-784-8090. You can also text LISTEN to 839863.

Now is a time for closeness, contact and community. Trauma needs processing. Promote calls, hugs, self-care, check-ins, and sleep. We have found this article helpful for understanding how trauma affects us: “A New Normal: Ten Things I’ve Learned About Trauma”.

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