An attendee at this year’s Burning Man festival took the event’s name quite too literally after he evaded security and ran into a massive fire.
The incident happened on Saturday during one of the festival’s signature ceremonies, wherein they set fire to a huge wooden statue. With about 50,000 people watching the celebration, 41-year-old Aaron Joe Mitchell broke through a two-layer security perimeter and dove into the flaming effigy.
Firefighters pulled Mitchell out of the inferno and airlifted him to the UC Davis hospital in California. Sadly, his burns were so severe that he died on Sunday.
Doctors have concluded that Mitchell was not drunk when he committed the act. A toxicology report, however, is pending to see if he was under the influence of drugs.
Burning Man organisers have since canceled some burns following the tragedy, as well as offered emotional support on-site. “Now is a time for closeness, contact and community. Trauma needs processing. Promote calls, hugs, self-care, check-ins, and sleep,” they said in a statement.
More than 70,000 people attended this year’s Black Rock Desert festivities, which concluded on Monday.
In previous years, other attendees have tried the same thing – but this is the first time someone succeeded.
“People try to run into the fire as part of their spiritual portion of Burning Man,” said Jerry Allen, the sheriff of Pershing county in Nevada.
“The significance of the man burning, it’s just kind of a rebirth, they burn the man to the ground, a new chapter has started. It’s part of their tenets of radical self-expression.”
Three years ago in Utah, another man died after jumping into a massive ceremonial bonfire at an event similar to Burning Man. The death was eventually ruled as a suicide.