- Jim Bourg/Reuters
A man has died after running into an inferno at Burning Man.
Aaron Joel Mitchell ran through two layers of security officers and into an effigy at the annual gathering in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert on Saturday night, Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen said, as cited by the Associated Press.
The 41-year-old was pulled from the flames by firefighters, treated on the scene, and transported to Burning Man’s on-site medical facility.
He was then airlifted to the UC Davis Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center, which is 300 miles away, according to a statement by Burning Man’s organisers.
Mitchell died shortly after arriving at the burn center on Sunday morning.
- REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Officials said attempts to rescue Mitchell from the flames were obstructed because parts of the effigy were falling and firefighters had to wait for the structure to fall before saving him, according to the AP.
Reuters photographer Jim Bourg captured the moment Mitchell ran into the flames and fell over. Business Insider has chosen not to publish the whole sequence of images.
Mitchell was an American citizen who was living in Switzerland with his wife, Allen said. This was his first time at Burning Man, Mitchell’s mother Johnnye Mitchell told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Burning Man is an annual nine-day event, at which tens of thousands congregate in Black Rock Desert and build a new city from scratch, only to dismantle or burn everything before leaving. More than 70,000 people attended this year, the AP said.
Attendees – also known as “burners” – close the festival by torching massive structures, such as the one that killed Mitchell over the weekend. Attendees have attempted to run into the flames to symbolise rebirth, the AP noted.
- Jim Bourg/Reuters
Event organisers cancelled scheduled “burns” on Sunday afternoon but carried out its final burn of a massive wooden temple in the evening, Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
Federal officials originally wanted the Burning Man organisers to call it off, but organisers proceeded anyway, this time with the added security of a metal fence and more than 600 volunteers and staff surrounding the structure.
“We are showing the government we can step forward,” Burning Man co-founder Crimson Rose said, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It is a testament to our spirit. We have a ritual to complete.”
Doctors said Mitchell wasn’t under the influence of alcohol at the time, but a toxicology report is pending, Allen said.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to Aaron’s family during this unexpected tragedy,” he added, particularly “for juveniles who are allowed to attend the festival and may not have the same coping skills as adults do when they see something this tragic happen before their eyes.”
Emotional support teams have been made available for participants and staff on site, Burning Man said in its statement.