Burning Man Attendee Dies After Running Into Flames

The 41-year-old man was pronounced dead after being airlifted from the festival in Nevada to a hospital burn center.

An attendee of Nevada’s Burning Man festival has died after breaking through security and running into a burning effigy Saturday night.

The Associated Press reports that 41-year-old Aaron Joel Mitchell, an American who was living in Switzerland with his wife, received treatment from Black Rock City firefighters before being airlifted to the U.C. Davis hospital burn center in California. He died there from his injuries early Sunday.

According to reports, Mitchell wasn’t under the influence of alcohol at the time he sustained his injuries, though a toxicology report is pending.

Mitchell’s mother, Johnnye Mitchell, told the Reno Gazette-Journal that her son was a “loving and a nice person” who enjoyed the outdoors. He last saw his parents Aug. 1 before heading to a solar eclipse festival and, later, Burning Man.

A Burning Man Ranger guards the inner perimeter around the effigy of "The Man" Sept. 2.
A Burning Man Ranger guards the inner perimeter around the effigy of "The Man" Sept. 2.

The nine-day counterculture festival, now in its 31st year, prominently features effigy burning among its traditions, culminating in the burning of the “Man” on Saturday and the “Temple” on Sunday.

In response to the incident, festival organizers canceled scheduled burns through noon on Sunday, but continued on with the “Temple” burn 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,” the organizers said in a statement. They encouraged those who needed support in the wake of the tragedy to seek it out.

The AP estimated that more than 70,000 people attended this year’s festival, which ends Monday.