(Image: Burning Man 2015 / Source)
Tragic new reports have been emerging from Black Rock Desert, Nevada over the weekend as a man has sadly passed away from running into Burning Man festival’s key ceremonial fire on Saturday night.
In a recent statement released directly by the event, the victim has been named as American-born, Switzerland resident Aaron Joel Mitchell, aged 41. Initial reports included descriptions of Mitchell breaking past two security perimeter fences and security and running directly into the festival’s famous totem that is built and burnt every year.
It’s estimated that over 50,000 witnessed the event at the festival which attracted over 70,000 Burning Man fans (known as Burners) this year. Mixed reports across the press suggest initial tests showed Mitchell was not under the influence of alcohol but a deeper toxicology report has not yet been revealed. Sadly, falling parts of the 40 foot structure meant that Mitchell could not be rescued safely by fire personnel at the time and his body was recovered once the structure had collapsed.
This is a truly devastating event and our thoughts are with Mitchell’s family and everyone who witnessed such an unnecessary loss of life. The full Burning Man statement can be read here or below:
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”.