[Update 9/5/17 0:45am PST]
There’s a Reddit thread with more eyewtiness accounts.
He had a history of trying to self-harm while on psychedelics (allegedly: friend of a friend saying)
[Update 9/4/17 11:43pm PST]
There was a chain-link fence surrounding the Temple when they burned it on Sunday night. The new normal?
From the RGJ:
More than 600 volunteers and staff ringed the perimeter of the Temple, backed up by a hastily installed metal security fence. The fence and additional security were new conditions sought by the federal land manager, said Burning Man co-founder Crimson Rose.
…Rose said federal Bureau of Land Management officials wanted Burning Man to call off the Temple burn, the ceremonial finish to the weeklong festival of 70,000 people in the Nevada desert. She said the government wanted 350 extra security guards. Burning Man found nearly double that number.
“We are showing the government we can step forward,” Rose said as she joined with other perimeter guards. “It is a testament to our spirit. We have a ritual to complete”
The show must go on, says the High Priestess. It’s a Radical Ritual of death and rebirth, so why let more death stop it?
An eyewitness account from a friend of Christina Duncan was posted on the official Burning Man Facebook page
Saturday of Burning Man, everyone in our group was pretty fed up with the desert and ready to be home with our families and pets. Then we went to the burn. We spun conclave in the middle of the great circle, looking out at the sea of people and art cars with their neon lights and bumping music. It was a rush unlike any other. Afterward we settled in to watch The Man go up in flames. We cheered as the biggest effigy to date produced an impressive fire works show and serious explosions. Laughing and joking, all of us talked about how we had earlier been ready to leave but after performing and watching The Man burn, maybe we ought to discuss coming next year after all. Then suddenly people were yelling. A man was barreling through the crowd right toward our fire group. Nick was on his feet and running after the guy, the perimeter people called at him to sit down so he pulled a baseball slide and tried to trip the runner, barely missing. The guy darted at the perimeter, a relatively tall man looking very in shape, he dodged the sandmen rushing him with incredible speed and agility. He was determined and bigger and faster than anyone chasing him. As he bolted to the fire, I kept thinking he wasn’t really going to make it. No way. But then he was running into the fire, the sandmen couldn’t follow him any more. The fire was hot as hell from where we were sitting so I can’t imagine being that close to it. He ran back out of the fire, circled back a bit and ran right into the middle and laid down (or tripped backward maybe). None of the firemen could go after him until a piece of the effigy fell, then they rushed into the fire and pulled him out and loaded him into an ambulance. I can’t even describe the emotions. I was crying, gasping for breath, saying “Oh my god, please no” over and over again, feeling a panic attack clenching my throat in a steel grip. We didn’t want to look but we couldn’t stop watching. I saw my friends crying as well, shoulders shaking, hands covering their faces, partners trying to comfort their loved ones while barely keep it together themselves. I couldn’t take it anymore. We asked the perimeter guards if we could leave and they graciously let us stand up and rush away. Nobody got to run around the fire that night. Instead we muscled our way through the crowd, sometimes hearing people ask if someone had run through the fire as we rushed out sobbing. Most people were too far back to know what happened and were partying and having the time of their lives. It was so disturbing to have just witnessed someone lay down in a massive fire then leave to see that the world went on like nothing had happened. Once back at camp, we had lengthy discussions about the happening. We wondered what the guy had taken, he was obviously neck deep in some sort of intense psychedelic experience. We wondered if he was already suicidal and chose that moment to end his human contract or if he was just so fucked up that he actually thought he could do it and live, driven by feelings of godliness. There was a lot of anger. If the man was suicidal, why did he have to do that to us? Was it necessary to imprint that horrifying scene into our minds for our entire lives? We expressed how lucky we were to have our tribe, to be confident that if one of us ever reached that point we would for sure wrestle the person to the cops or a med station even if it meant clubbing then upside the head and tying them up. Because really, who the fuck are this guy’s friends? Then there is the perimeter itself. It’s weak. The sandmen are spaced too far apart and aren’t big enough and strong enough to take on all types of potential runners. I know burners are about handling business themselves but damn, hire a trained security team of big beef cake meatheads in top notch health. It has happened before, multiple people run every year, some have even made it. And what about telling the crowd not to help? I get it to some extent, but several people in our group could have tackled that guy and restrained him until help arrived momentarily. Or at least slowed him enough for the sandmen to get into position to catch him. Maybe we are somewhat in the wrong for not trying anyway. A man’s life was on the line and everyone followed orders instead of doing the right thing. Why were the sandmen chasing him in circles instead of blocking the fire and creating a barrier? By doing that, they left the fire wide open for him to run into. This man tried THREE times to break perimeter. Three. Why aren’t people who do that escorted to safety and monitored and maybe even banned from burns in general? Now I am not blaming any one person directly. Someone that sets that sort of intention and makes such a decision is clearly at fault for the consequences of their actions. However, could the safety precautions being modified and strengthened? Ab-so-fucking-lutely. And they should be. Not only for the mentally unstable runners, but for the sake of the thousands of witnesses who are traumatized by such an event. Nobody go burnier than thou on me and defend Burning Man, especially if you didn’t see what we were forced to see. These sorts of events bring an already misunderstood event like Burning Man under the microscope scrutiny of police and government organizations who already disagree with people who live as freely as burners do together. What could possibly be more important than protecting the sacred oasis that is Burning Man and regionals, the only places that so many of us feel safe being who we truly are? I’m trying to sort through this. I don’t want to be dwelling on this and circling around it, talking about it, reading articles and looking at pictures of the guy of Aaron Mitchell and wondering what he was like and what made him snap but I am and it just won’t stop. I saw some of the most amazing art in the world, danced at incredible sound stages with fire sculptures breathing flames and towering speaker stacks throwing bass across the the playa. I got to see what can happen when creative people want to build something amazing to uplift those in their burn community, when people just want to make others happy and taken care of while encouraging them to become more self reliant. The Ten Principles really are the guidelines for building a truly free and sustainable community, I really believe that. I am in awe always over the potential and motivation of true burners. But…just to the forefront of all that wonder and magic is Aaron Mitchell, laying down in unfathomably hot blaze, the man who probably just took too strong of drugs and thought he could survive fire, the stranger who died and left a scar on our hearts forever. Honestly, that is burn life. It won’t always be fun, sometimes it’s incredibly hard and you’re forced to evaluate parts of the human experience that aren’t comfortable and it happens in between the moments of love and elation and connection that we all crave. I’m learning from this, I’m growing as a person and am reminded of how incredibly lucky I am to be alive and deeply loved. Thanks for reading. Hug your loved ones. If you need help, don’t be afraid to seek it out. If you think someone needs help, reach out and offer them some. I will abuse the cliche again and say that we truly have to be the change we wish to see in the world.
All my love.
[Update 9/4/17 9:27pm PST]
There’s video. WARNING. This is intense. The Man had burned but the Temple of The Man was still standing.
[Update 9/12/17 11:26am PST]
A lot of censorship is being generated around this post. Thomson-Reuters gave me a takedown request for the photos, which we complied with, but that wasn’t good enough. They also objected to the screenshot of the Drudge Report headlines which incorporated one of their images. How far does this go: embedding a YouTube video, which may contain some of their photos? Linking to a Facebook discussion where somebody else posted the photos? At what point does non-profit, educational Fair Use become a consideration to MainStream Media #fakenews conglomerates? Remember, these are the people who brought us the 9/11 conspiracy and WMDs in Iraq, while profiting enormously. One wonders why free blog sites about Burning Man are so important to them.
We have shown already some of the Org’s attempts to shut down any discussion of this incident on social media, which has been backed by what appears to be co-ordinated troll attacks. Looks like there is an effort to take down all the related videos too. It would be nice to think they were doing this to prevent copycats and further sacrifices, but I suspect there are other motivations at work.
[Update 9/3/17 2:36pm PST] The man has been named as (Aaron) Joel Mitchell, 41
In a scene reminiscent of 2014’s tragic suicide at the Element11 regional in Utah, a man has run straight into the fire after the main event of Burning Man.
From the Las Vegas Review Journal:
About 10:30 p.m. Saturday, the man broke through safety perimeters at the Northern Nevada festival and ran straight into a fire, Burning Man officials said in a statement. Black Rock City firefighters entered the flames to rescue the festival-goer.
The man was treated on the scene before being transported to an on-site medical facility, officials said. He was later airlifted to a burn treatment center…
The man’s condition as of Sunday morning was unknown.
Here’s the official statement from BMorg:
At approximately 10:30 p.m. Saturday evening, a male participant at the annual Burning Man event in Northern Nevada broke through a safety perimeter and ran into a fire. Black Rock City fire personnel rescued him from the fire.
The individual was treated on scene, transported to the on-site medical facility and airlifted to a burn treatment center.
We will share more information as it becomes available.
There has now been confirmation that the man is dead, our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones. In 2005, a man intentionally ran into the fire and survived. He went on to try to sue Burning Man for his stupidity, unsuccessfully.
One of the Honorarium art installations this year was “The Pyramid of the Dead” dedicated to celebrating death: “Death is a part of life as much as life is a part of Death, and we invite you to celebrate this relationship with us”
A couple of days ago RT ran a story “Beware of Fire: Deaths at Burning Man”. There seem to be far more deaths at this event than any other festival, including much larger ones. Of course, it’s just a coincidence that it’s an occult ritual burning a wooden effigy inside a pentagram celebrating death and rebirth, surrounded by Pyramids and Temples for the Dead, lit from a fire kept burning in a magic soul-cooking cauldron called El Diabla. There are many other large scale public occult rituals that go on without such deaths…oh wait. Sorry, my mistake. There are no other such rituals.
[Images from YourEDM removed at the request of Thomson Reuters]
[Update 3/9/17 5:44pm PST]
Some links to counseling information from BMorg. Many Burners are seriously traumatized about witnessing such an horrific event during the peak moment of the party:
Emotional support teams have been made available to participants and staff. For people on playa, the Zendo Project is providing peer counseling at their space at 5:15 & A. Support staff from our Emergency Services Department’s Crisis Intervention Team are stationed at 3:00 & C, 9:00 & C, and 5:30 & Esplanade. Please seek them out.
If you are not on playa and are feeling the need to talk to someone, don’t wait. You can reach 24/7 crisis and suicide hotlines at 1-800-273-8255 or 775-784-8090. You can also text LISTEN to 839863.
Now is a time for closeness, contact and community. Trauma needs processing. Promote calls, hugs, self-care, check-ins, and sleep. We have found this article helpful for understanding how trauma affects us: “A New Normal: Ten Things I’ve Learned About Trauma”.
Some eyewitness accounts have shown up already on social media:
The official Burning Man Facebook group is censoring reports and photos of the tragedy:
There were originally comments on the BMorg official posting, these have been disabled too.
More as it comes in. BMorg said the Temple burn will continue as scheduled tonight…the show must go on.
[Update 9/3/17 6:23pm PST]
The Reno Gazette-Journal has more information about Joel Mitchell:
Update 4:45 p.m. Sunday: The mother of Aaron Joel Mitchell confirmed that her son was the man who died after running into flames at Burning Man on Saturday night…
Joel grew up in McAlester, Oklahoma but was living in Switzerland.
“He’s 41, but they are always your baby,” said Johnnye Mitchell. “He was loving and a nice person…Joel liked hiking and outdoors, running.”
Mitchell said she saw her son on Aug. 1 before he headed to Oregon to go to an Eclipse festival. She knew he was planning to go to Burning Man with friends and it was his first time to the annual festival.
She said he is married but does not have any children. His wife is from Switzerland. He was working in construction.
“He was in great spirits when we saw him…We are just in shock, total shock,” she said. “We can’t believe this happened.”
…The Burning Man organization canceled scheduled burns through noon Sunday but will proceed with the scheduled Temple burn at 8 p.m.
[Update 9/3/17 7:44pm PST]
The RGJ has some further details from the Sheriff:
The Pershing County Sheriff said Sunday night that the initial rescue efforts were hampered due to a portion of “the Man” falling at the time rescuers were attempting to retrieve Mitchell from the debris.
“Rescuers had to leave him to allow the structure to fall and provide for rescuer safety before they could go back into the flames to extract Aaron from the debris,”…
It remains unclear whether Mitchell was trying to run into the fire or tripped and fell into it while trying to avoid security staff…
One safety ranger who witnessed the incident teared up as she told her campmates early Sunday morning how she tried but failed to stop the man.
Rangers who work the event are told in advance to look out for three kinds of people likely to rush toward the fire: people trying to get attention, people who are on drugs or intoxicated and don’t understand the danger, and the suicidal.
[Source: Reno Gazette Journal]
Some of the MSM coverage of the tragedy:
YouTube videos are starting to be made.