Burning Man Worker Death. Rest in Peace Lonnie Richey

A guest post from A Balanced Perspective.


Image: Washoe County Sheriff’s office, via Facebook

In a most sad manner, Lonnie Richey died in the traffic accident near to Gerlach that halted Burning Man traffic for six hours. His two teen age children are heart broken over the death of their father. He was returning from his twelve hour, overnight, double shift opening the Burning Man event.

In addition to the arrests, there were two Burning Man–related deaths. The first occurred on Sunday, August 25. Lonnie Richey, a 61-year-old Nevada man, was killed in a fatal car crash on County Road 34, which is a narrow, two-lane, stretch of highway that leads to the event site. Richey, Salon has learned, was working as a flagger for traffic control for the event, contracted through a sub-agency. The Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office told KTVN that fatigue appeared to be a factor in his death.

Empathy is a very important human emotion. Empathy is not within the Ten Principles of Burning Man, but empathy is necessary for community to exist. In the place of memorializing the life of Lonnie Harris, whom died in due of assisting Burners traveling to the burn, the BMOrg has been silent in regards to his death, and their rubbish social media crew is halting any discussions upon this matter. My belief is the BMOrg instructed workers, and volunteers, to not discuss his death, desiring to prevent Burners, and his family, from learning what occurred in regards of his death.

The BMOrg website states of the ghost of Larry Harvey continues as Philosophic Director. As is most apparent in regards of their actions upon the death of Lonnie Richey, they are following Larry’s philosophic direction, of in 1996, when Michael Fury was near to decapitated in a motorcycle crash on the playa, Larry was most concerned with, and yelling, numerous times, that his death did not occur at Burning Man. My belief is empathy is most important, empathy is necessary for community to exist.

This behaviour, by the BMOrg, towards Burning Man workers, and volunteers, is not new. In Salon, Exclusive: Burning Man, a utopia for guests, can be a hell for many workers, Black Rock Ranger Kelli Hoversten bravely describes her experience with the BMOrg, after she was blinded by a laser at the Man burn within 2014. Might the BMOrg be repeating their behaviour in regards to the death of Lonnie Richey?

From Salon,

Nevada state law also requires that when an injured worker receives workers’ compensation, he or she cannot sue the employer. Hoversten connected with an executive claims consultant, as directed by Burning Man, who told her to file her claim in Missouri because that is was her permanent residence, advice she now says was legally incorrect. She says she was never told that there was a 90-day filing period in Nevada. By the time she figured that out, it was too late to file a claim. “If I would have filed in Nevada, my case would have been much stronger,” she said. “When Burning Man [tells] you that they are helping you with workers’ comp, they are not.”

Six months after the accident, Hoversten’s medical bills were piling up. In March 2015, one of her friends set up a GoFundMe to try to help her cope with the cost. At that point, Burning Man management finally took notice and offered her a $10,000 anonymous donation, attached to a nondisclosure agreement. A standard life insurance policy will generally pay $250,000 to someone who is rendered legally blind in both eyes on the job. Hoversten had two weeks to accept the offer, which she says turned into two weeks of harassment by an employee in the human resources department. She did not accept the offer.

My belief is the Burner community, artists, volunteers, and the Burning Man event, are awesome. I am in agreement with the statements, within the article, of,

“I still believe in the [Burning Man] community and the service of the volunteers as a community,” she said, adding that there is a disconnect between upper management and those who run the festival — a gulf that appears to be widening and might hurt the festival in the long run. “If they don’t start caring about their volunteers and treating their volunteers like we are human beings and have worth…”, and of

Hoversten is not the only one who still finds value in the Burning Man community. Bond, who worked at Center Camp said she wants it to be “wonderful and beautiful again,” but that would require changes in upper management. “How do you get people to not abuse their power?” Bond asked. “It feels like there needs to be a shift in the alignment of their moral fibers.”

There are numerous queries that the BMOrg has hidden in regards of the death of Lonnie Richey. Might anyone, other than the rubbish BMOrg social media crew, know the details in regards of his employment, directions, or death, might you leave a comment, purposed to assist his children? My belief is the guardians of Lonnie Richey’s children are most in need of gaining good workers compensation legal advice, purposed to assist his heart broken children in their lives.

Image: Kolo TV via Cree Adamson

Will Burning Man Face Its Demons?

Image: Julie Lucus

Salon follows up their recent investigations into sexual assaults and worker abuse at Burning Man.


From Salon.com [emphasis ours]:

…the renowned gathering is not as utopian as it might appear. Two Salon investigations in the past two years have revealed that the supposedly liberating environment has also provided cover for predators of all kinds, including some who work for and even run the event. It has also fostered exploitation of its most vulnerable workers, in a manner that rivals any corporate machine in the “default world.”

Now that these harrowing stories of exploitation and abuse on the playa have been made public, we were curious if the organization had sought to reform itself or merely doubled-down on denying and protecting its abusers.

Back in August 2018… published the results of a year-long investigation into claims of labor abuse within the Burning Man organization. We spoke to former and current employees and volunteers for the festival who painted a picture of a dangerous and stressful work environment. Some shared stories about a toxic management culture which they claimed was ignoring and creating a serious mental health crisis among workers within Burning Man’s Department of Public Works (DPW), seasonal workers who build the bulk of the infrastructure that allows the desert festival to function

Between 2009 and 2015, seven DPW workers died by suicide. That number is statistically significant enough to be alarming, according to Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, a psychologist and the lead of the Workplace Task Force for the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. “To give you a benchmark, in a community of 1,000 people we would expect one suicide death in one decade,” she told Salon in 2018…

From hundreds of documents reviewed, and dozens of rangers and victims spoken to, it became clear that, contrary to Burners’ perceptions of the playa as a safe, welcoming space, women are at considerable risk of being sexually assaulted there. Moreover, their false sense of security is due in part to the disorganized way that Burning Man discloses sexual assaults— and the improper instructions and training that the all-volunteer internal security force known as the Black Rock Rangers and their supervisors, called Khakis, receive…

The inadequate self-policing system has the effect, intended or otherwise, of silencing and dismissing victims of sexual assault and other forms of abuse before they have an opportunity to report the crime to law enforcement.


Read the full story at salon.com

[Read Salon’s exclusive investigation into how Burning Man minimized reports of sexual assault on the playa]

DENIED: No Growth, and Drug Screenings [UPDATE]

The cozy relationship the extreme Far Left Progressives of San Francisco’s Burning Man Organization enjoyed with the Federal Government under Obama doesn’t seem to be playing out quite the same way under President Trump.

Last year saw massive amounts of Burner cars being pulled over on the Paiute Indian Reservation and searched for drugs, as part of the President’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. See Indians Promised They Will Shut Down the Roads – and They Delivered.

This year we had threats of a concrete wall being built to concentrate the Burners, the horrific idea of trash dumpsters at the exit gates, and private mercenary armies conducting drug searches – while on the other hand, Burning Man asked for a population increase from 80,000 to 100,000. See BMorg Outraged at $10m Bill For $42m New Revenues.

No extra $40 million for you! The growth has been denied, but the private security doing drug searches is still on the table – maybe for this year, maybe 2020.

From the Reno Gazette-Journal:

Burning Man won’t be growing this year, but there could be at least one major change upon entry: drug screenings

The Bureau of Land Management on Friday issued the final environmental impact statement for Burning Man, denying the Burning Man organization its sought-after growth to 100,000 people but granting it more time to address a number of environmental and security concerns.

The federal agency may, however, hire a private security firm this year to conduct drug screenings. Or, it might wait until 2020, according to BLM spokesman Rudy Evenson. 

As for the growth of the event, the population cap will remain at 80,000 people … 

“The BLM and cooperating agencies could not support the event growing. The city of Reno, Nevada Department of Transportation, Nevada Highway Patrol as well as the Bureau of Land Management could not support the growth particularly because there are other events going on during Labor Day,” said Evenson.

One third of BLM law enforcement officers nationwide are required to patrol the event at the current size, but one half would be required if it grew to 100,000. Transportation agencies also want to find ways to alleviate the congestion on area roads before the BLM allows any growth of the event, Evenson said… 

In an effort to make the event safer and more secure, the BLM plans to hire a private security firm to “screen” Burners for drugs and weapons prior to entering the event, according to the report. 

In public meetings, Burners called the suggested drug searches unconstitutional.

Read the full story at the Reno Gazette-Journal

Is Trump going to build a wall at Burning Man?

Well…sort of.

No statement yet at the BJ, but some more detail was posted in the comments to this post:

Alternative D has been selected:
The event will occur with no population growth during the ten year period. This means that a total of 80,000 people will be allowed onsite until at least 2028.

In the final EIS the BLM has updated many facets of the mitigations. Listed below are some of the most contentious ones.

NAT-2 Dumpsters: This mitigation has been completely removed from the EIS. Yay.

PHS-1 Private Security at Gate: They are still requiring private security. However the contracting will be done through the BLM, not BRC. This security force will report “banned or illegal contraband” directly to law enforcement. Federal agency contracting out private security to conduct their unconstitutional searches.

PHS-3 The Wall Around BRC: The requirement has been shortened. It now just reads, “BRC will be required to implement physical perimeter barriers and controls to reduce the risk of unauthorized entry to the Event.”

PHS-4 Building Inspections: This one was loosened up a bit, fortunately. Now structures over 10 feet must only be inspected if they are for lodging and aren’t tents, RV’s, or motorhomes. Also, the inspection will be done by BRC staff, not “Nevada-certified building inspectors.”

VIS-1 Lighting: They’re letting us point our lights towards the sky. However, the BLM is going to monitor us to make sure we don’t spew too many photons.

Look for updates to this post as the story unfolds.


[Update June 15 2019 11:30am]

Volume 1 of the Environmental Impact Statement

Volume 2

Reddit thread

Some are saying that High Rock Security will be doing the drug searches.

Seems like some lucrative private security contracts will be going the way of long-time BMorg personnel

Private searches offer an interesting loophole for the government to get around the Fourth Amendment, as discussed in this 2017 Yale Law journal article:

Under the private search doctrine, once a private party has conducted an initial search independent of the government, the government may repeat that search, even if doing so would otherwise violate the Fourth Amendment. The private party’s search renders the subsequent government “search” not a search in the constitutional sense.


Currently Burning Man has a peak ticketed population of 70,000 and is allowed 10,000 staff and volunteers. They have missed out on 300,000 tickets over the next ten years, which is potentially more than half a billion dollars. I predict VIP ticket prices will increase above $2000 before the end of this period – in the past I have predicted that for 2020. We’re getting very close already: with vehicle pass, handling fees and taxes, this year’s VIP ticket is $1703.50.