Kiwi Suspicious Death at Burning Man

Fatalities have become a regular thing at Burning Man; so far this year there have been two (possibly three with a motorcyclist from Reno killed on the roads outside the event), as well as a plane crash which left 3 people injured (1 seriously).

Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the Medical tent to find Shane “Wingman” Billingham, a 33-year old Burner from New Zealand, dead of carbon monoxide poisoning. He was found unresponsive in his vehicle at his camp Beats Boutique. Police are treating the death as suspicious.

From Stuff.co.nz:

Shane Billingham was found dead in a vehicle at the festival, held annually in Nevada, United States, at 6.30pm on Thursday (US time).

The death 33-year-old, from Great Barrier Island, has been deemed suspicious by investigating US authorities.  

The Washoe County Medical Examiner’s Office said a post-mortem found Billingham has “a concentration of carbon monoxide in his blood which would be considered poisonous to human life. Preliminary toxicology showed the presence of controlled substances to be an exacerbating factor”…

A friend of Billingham’s told Stuff the Kiwi was a “great guy” who travelled a lot and dabbled in lots of things, but loved music.
“[He was] just a joy to be around … He was very creative, loved playing and being involved in all types of music.”

A fundraiser started by Billingham’s sister to bring his body home has raised $13,795 from 186 people in 9 hours.

Great Barrier Island is the sixth-largest island in New Zealand, about 100 kilometers from Auckland. Its population is 939.

Wingman was an experienced Burner, having attended in 2014 and 2017:

Wingman at Burning Man in 2017. Source: Facebook

The Reno Gazette-Journal has an update with further details:

A spokesperson for the Burning Man organization said Billingham was discovered unresponsive in his vehicle at his camp, Beats Boutique, at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Bystanders immediately began CPR and emergency responders arrived shortly after. Billingham was then transferred to Burning Man’s onsite emergency care center where he was declared dead by an on-duty emergency physician shortly after. 

Steve MacWithey, lead of Beats Boutique camp where Billingham was staying, said Billingham was one of his best friends.

“He was one of the best people I’ve ever known,” MacWithey said, burying his face in his palms as he wept…MacWithey described his friend as a hard worker, a lover of sustainable farming and someone who could always be counted on. Billingham was tall, blonde, handsome and bore a resemblance to Kid Rock, he said.

Makeshift memorial for Shane Billingham at Beats Boutique. Source: Jenny Kane/RGJ

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen issued a statement about the investigation into the death.

From Radio New Zealand:

Police were investigating the death as “suspicious,” Pershing County Sheriff’s Jerry Allen said in a statement.

“Preliminary toxicology showed the presence of controlled substances to be an exacerbating factor,” he said.

“Quantitative analysis of the toxicology will not be available for a few weeks.”

He said Pershing County Deputies responded to a report of a death at the festival on 29 August (local time).

“The male subject had already been transported to the Rampart medical tent, within the confined area of the festival,” Mr Allen said.

“Coroners were advised by doctors on site they had already declared the male subject deceased. The scene was secured to be investigated and a deputy coroner transported the decedent to the Washoe County Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy.”

An unconfirmed report suggests that he fell asleep in his car with the air conditioner running, too close to exhaust from a generator.

Source: Facebook

Rest in peace, Wingman. Kua hinga te tōtara i Te Waonui-a-Tāne.


Image: Facebook

8 comments on “Kiwi Suspicious Death at Burning Man

  1. FYI –now that Burning Man is a NOT FOR PROFIT which is a PRIVATE ENTITY –ANY ONE CAN SUE BURNING MAN — GOING –COMING –OR WHILE AT THE EVENT IN A EVENT OF INJURY OR DEATH –THE DAYS OF THE LLC PUBLIC ARE NOW GONE! And the ticket is no longer valid saying that no one can sue for those things! May his soul be resting in Peace! <3

    Read more at: https://www.everydaydevotional.com/blog/death-obituaries-shane-billingham-of-nevada-passed-away/

    • Are you advocating for a lawsuit in this case? What happened is very tragic, but not the fault of the BMORG. Or are you just pointing out the increased possibility of lawsuits now that it’s not an LLC?

  2. BMorg is not happy about this one – pronounced dead on the playa. They certainly wanted his body on the helicopter before anyone pronounced death. I suppose no one from HQ told the doctor about how to avoid bad press for the event in case of death. Or if they did, the doctor won’t be invited back next year; difficult to work with.

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