The annual Burning Festival in Black Rock, Nevada, is in mourning after a man died when he ran into a flaming effigy on Saturday night (September 2). Aaron Joel Mitchell, 41, broke through two sets of security perimeter before running into the fire. He passed away on Sunday morning (September 3) after being airlifted to the University College Davis hospital burn centre in California.
According to the Chicago Tribune, around 50,000 people were in attendance when the tragedy occurred. The festival's crew of firefighters subsequently pulled Mitchell out of the blaze.
Nevada's Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen said that the reasons behind Mitchell’s actions had yet to be established: "We don't know if it was intentional on his part or if it was just kind of induced by drugs. We're not sure of that yet.”
Festival organizers are offering support counselling on site. They said in a statement: "Now is a time for closeness, contact and community. Trauma needs processing. Promote calls, hugs, self-care, check-ins, and sleep."
Attempts to rescue Mitchell were made difficult due to the structure falling down as it was burning.
According to police, Aaron Mitchell was a US citizen who lived in Switzerland with his wife.
The Burning Festival tweeted: “Our community is grieving after an incident during last night’s Burn.”
Our community is grieving after an incident during last night’s Burn. Here is our response. https://t.co/kbmd709CLF— Burning Man (@burningman) 3 September 2017
A full statement from the organisers reads: “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,” said the festival in a statement.
“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 cancelled scheduled burns through noon Sunday but will proceed with the scheduled Temple burn at 8p.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.”