Man Who Died From Flames Was at His First Burning Man

More on the death of Aaron Joel Mitchell, 41
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2017 9:27 AM CDT
Man Who Died From Burning Man Flames Was There for First Time
In this Aug. 31, 2013, file photo, the "Man" burns on the Black Rock Desert at Burning Man near Gerlach, Nev.   (Andy Barron/Reno Gazette-Journal, File via AP)

The Reno Gazette-Journal has more on the man who died after he ran into the Burning Man festival’s eponymous effigy Saturday night. Aaron Joel Mitchell, 41, was attending his first Burning Man, says his mother, who tells the paper her son was originally from McAlester, Okla., but had been living in Switzerland with his wife. Burning Man co-founder Crimson Rose says it's still not known whether Mitchell intentionally ran into the fire after breaking through two layers of security or whether he accidentally fell into it as security chased after him. Toxicology tests are pending, but officials have said Mitchell was not drunk; authorities are investigating the death.

"We don't know if it was intentional on his part or if it was just kind of induced by drugs," said Nevada's Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen. The sheriff's office said in a statement 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." The AP notes people have tried to run into the flames in the past, or approach it to collect a fiery souvenir, but Allen says this is the only fatality of this sort he is aware of. The Bureau of Land Management (which manages the land the festival is held on) wanted festival organizers to cancel the temple burn that serves as the 9-day festival's closer, but it went ahead following the addition of more than 600 security guards and volunteers and the erection of a security fence. (Read more Burning Man stories.)

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