A man has died after running into the 50-foot burning effigy that marks the end of the Burning Man Festival. Aaron Joel Mitchell, 41, was a construction worker originally from Oklahoma who was attending his first Burning Man Festival.
The festival ends with the traditional burning of a 50-foot wooden effigy, called The Man. Mitchell snuck through a security gate, ran past guards, and into the inferno. Fire rescue teams had to pull back and wait for structure collapse before rescuing Mitchell.
Mitchell was airlifted to the hospital at UC Davis, but died of his injuries the next morning.
Mitchell’s mother told local press, “He’s 41, but they are always your baby. He was loving and a nice person,” she added. “Joel liked hiking and outdoors, running.” Mitchell’s father, struggling to come to terms with his son’s death, told reporters, “You just never want something like this to happen.”
Organizers of Burning Man were also quick to help attendees at the festival.
On Sunday, organizers made “emotional support teams” available to attendees who witnessed the event or felt affected by tragedy from the night before. In a statement, organizers said “Now is a time for closeness, contact and community. Trauma needs processing. Promote calls, hugs, self-care, check-ins, and sleep.”
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