Child Kidnapper Targetted Burning Man

What are they putting in the water in Aurora, Colorado? The town was the site of the Batman Massacre, timed to coincide with the “Dark Knight Rises” movie launch in 2012. And now, a man has been caught breaking into a house and kidnapping an 8-year old girl from her bedroom. What’s worse, is he planned to go to Burning Man, announcing on his Facebook page that he wanted to pick up a couple more kids there.

From ABC News:

Internet_Predator_cartoonThe man arrested for the kidnapping of an 8-year-old girl also wrote about helping orphans and joked about “kidnapping” at the Burning Man festival on his Facebook page.

John Stanley Snorsky, 26, of Aurora, was charged Saturday with first and second-degree burglary and second-degree kidnapping for allegedly breaking to a home in Aurora, and grabbing an 8-year-old girl from her bedroom. The girl was able to call for help and escape her attacker after he pulled into an alley, police said.

Snorsky had been in jail since Tuesday morning for an investigative parole hold on an unrelated case, according to police. He is scheduled to be in court on Monday and is being held on $600,000 bail.

On his Facebook page, Snorsky described himself as having a troubled childhood where he was forced to eat “from the dumpsters.” The Facebook page has since been taken down.

Snorsky described himself as growing up in orphanages after his mother abandoned him and his father was sent to prison for murder, though none of this was corroborated. He also wrote that due to his experience of being abandoned he wanted to help orphans.

“These kids have had horrible lives and with the holidays approaching fast they feel lonier [sic] than ever … so for my birthday and Christmas wish I want all my friends to come together and send 15 KIDS [sic] and 3 [sic] staff members from the orphanage to the nutcracker,” Snorsky wrote in February.

His profile also stated that he spent time in prison after he “made the regrettable mistake of burglarizing a gun shop.” Snorsky described his 7 years of being incarcerated as helping him improve his drawing skills.

Over the last year Snorsky also touched on the major events in Colorado, including the mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater in July 2012. Snorsky wrote what “disgusts” him about shooting is that a man “can become known #worldwide by #killing all these #innocent #people here.”

In the last few months, Snorsky wanted to celebrate his freedom after being released from prison and even joked about kidnapping.

“I‘m going to burning man next year to celebrate the first time in my life that I’m completely free,” wrote Snorsky. “I’ll kidnap a couple of u[sic] too hahaha.”

abduction ufoSnorsky was arrested after the girl who was nearly kidnapped was able to help police create a sketch of the suspect. Police released a composite sketch of the man they were looking for on Monday night and received over 200 calls.

“She is a brave young lady and kept her wits about her,” Aurora Police Division Chief Rob McGregor said at a news conference Saturday. “It is a message to all parents to reiterate to their kids to make noise if something is going on.”

The girl, who police did not name, had very minor injuries and was transported to the hospital after she escaped.

A reward of $20,000 was set for information leading to the arrest of the kidnapper. Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said that he believed the reward was a major factor in the fact that more than 200 tips came in.

Snorsky was taken into custody on suspicion of committing felony theft, police said at a news conference on Saturday.

McGregor said Snorsky, a self-proclaimed artist, works in Aurora at a sub shop. A Facebook page under his name and date of birth showed drawings that he has made and posed self-portrait, he said his work is available in private collections across America. His artwork was used in the sandwich shop where he worked.

Snorsky came to the United States from Russia, police sources told ABC News. He has served time in a Colorado prison for burglary and escape.

While out on parole, Snorsky made friends where he worked at the Aurora sub shop, including with police who often went there to eat.

The restaurant owner, a 72-year-old-woman, felt sorry for Snorsky and took him in, according to police sources.

It was not clear whether Snorsky had been assigned an attorney. 

More than 200 tips came in, possibly related to the $20,000 reward. It looks like police picked him up on another matter, so not sure if anyone gets the cash.
penn stateThis Russian pedophile was friendly with the cops, huh? Disgusting. Let’s hope this was something totally random, and Burning Man is not on the radar for more sinister, organized pedophile/white slavery rings like Jimmy Saville in the UK or Penn State in the US. According to the Nancy Grace report above, there were more than 310 registered sex offenders in a 2 mile radius of where this girl lived.
I can see why Pershing County’s Judge and Sheriff don’t think Burning Man is a safe place for kids. It’s not just that they might accidentally eat the wrong cookie, or see exposed genitals…it’s that we live in a big, scary world, even in the best of places. Burning Man is an easy place to get lost at, whatever your age. In fact, that’s part of it. If you’re not getting lost, you’re not trying hard enough! It’s remote, sometimes harsh, chaotic, gigantic, dangerous (even deadly), and it’s full of people on all kinds of drugs with all kinds of sexual fetishes. All celebrating their “freedom” as it relates best to them. For this guy, “radical self expression” meant grabbing a couple of kiddies to enjoy. Do we have to “radically include” these people in our party?  Burning Man is not a small community any more, where everyone knows everyone. Three quarters of the people there have 2 or less Burns under their belt, so the massive 70,000 population of newbies are mostly unknown to the community.
kids burning man 3Kids didn’t bother me when there were 15,000 people there. Now, when the party has gone so mainstream that people like this are planning their lives around a visit, it creates a whole new level of concern. It’s not just two parents, one kid, and everyone else can get fucked because they’ll raise their kid however damn well they like; these are issues for the whole community. This was seen in 2012 when the Exodus line was completely shut down for 12 hours, everyone was held hostage at the party no matter how urgently they had to leave, because a 16-year old girl went missing for a while. Thankfully, they found her, safe and sound. All it would take is for something really bad to happen to one kid, and it could affect the name of all Burners. A lot of stuff can go wrong at Burning Man, we’ve been lucky so far as the city has grown but we only have one year of creating a 70,000 person city to reflect on. To assume that there’s no difference between 30,000 and 70,000 flies in the face of logic. I think most repeat Burners noticed how packed the Playa was this year,  not just the Esplanade but all the bits in between as well. There are 1000 planes there now, and almost 1000 art cars and service vehicles driving around.
If they made it an over 21 event, they’d still sell 70,000 tickets, people will probably gift more. It would certainly encourage more free booze everywhere, although in some circles this isn’t seen as a good thing to add to a party. If you insist that kids must be there, then maybe you should ban registered sex offenders (right now, they are supposed to check in with the LEOs when they arrive). Of course, this may be a problem, since peeing on the Playa might be enough to get your on the sex offender database in Pershing County.

You Can’t Quit Me, I’m Fire!

by Whatsblem the Pro

In fact, you're ALL fired. Merry Christmas!

In fact, you’re ALL fired. Merry Christmas!

Is it a coincidence? A deliberate reorganization? A quiet rebellion? Recent days have seen a spate of high-level firings, resignations, and even a strike taking place in the often insular world of the Burning Man organization.

Palmer ‘Gameshow‘ Parker, DPW’s Dispatch Manager for many years, was invited to attend Burning Man for free again in 2013, but his contract was not renewed. Gameshow has now been replaced by another long-time Dispatch worker. Those in the know were tight-lipped about it at the subsequent manager’s meeting, and simply cited “a Human Resources issue,” while other sources cited an alleged dissatisfaction with Gameshow’s ability and/or willingness to integrate DPW Dispatch with EMS personnel and their system. Gameshow himself has declined to make any official comment on the Org’s decision.

=====

Quinn Yarbrough, sometimes known as “Ghost Dancer,” was asked to resign less than a week ago after some ten years as the DPW Ranch Manager, according to sources close to him. Of course, in the corporate HR world of professional candy-coating and face-saving, “asked to resign” is just a euphemism for being fired without having to tell your next employer that you were fired.

Quinn was reportedly escorted around the ranch – his only home for the last ten years – as he gathered his belongings, like some kind of suspected thief. This is not to say that Quinn is suspected of being a thief; it’s a not-uncommon feature of big-boy corporate culture that fired employees are shepherded around by security guards and formally shown the door. What this says about the Org, about their goals, and about how very far they’ve strayed from a Cacophony Society Zone Trip is much more interesting than anything it might imply about Quinn Yarbrough, who is unfortunately unavailable for comment at this time. His Facebook page, however, gives us a public statement notable for its civilized tone; Quinn is often said to be rather a deep person, and his serene stance in the face of what must be a massive life change would seem to support that opinion of him:

Where as word spreads like wildfire let me just say this much for now. I love you all and have nothing ill to say about anyone, it’s simply time and appropriate for our collective evolution for me to step onto a new path. Much love and gratitude for the many many memories – blessings to the Burning Man Community.”

=====

In contrast, Otto von Danger, whose calamitously controversial leadership on Burn Wall Street our very own Burnersxxx wrote about back in September 2012, posted the following comment on his Facebook page just today (presented here unedited):

After 6 years of Militey service the government discarded me as they do many others and now after 13 years Burning Man has done the same.They invented some bullshit and fired me last night.So I’m trying to fix it but as it stands I will not be going to Burning Man anymore and Shwing is canceled.FrogBat will go on of course.”

In response to queries, Otto gave the following explanation (also unedited):

it’s true…they said I pulled a knife on one of the Burn Wall street crew…which is obviously not true.I think that would have got me arrested.Again I’m trying to fix this but as it stands Burning Man is done with me.”

When asked why the Org would do something like that, Otto’s response was that the recently-released film SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY portrayed him in too flattering a light, and that the Org hates successful people like himself:

probably because I looked good in Spark is my guess…they don’t like success unless it’s thiers.”

People who have drunk a little too deeply of the Org’s kool-aid frequently chide us here at Burners.me for being too critical of their sacred icons, but in this case we have to speak up in defense of dear Uncle Larry and the other false gods of the Org-worshippers for a change: the idea that they get rid of people for being successful and appearing in films in a good light is even more absurd than the idea that Otto von Danger is successful by any objective definition of the word. Otto is clearly selling a flavor of kool-aid all his own, and his stated reasons for being dismissed are very possibly not a clear or accurate reflection of reality. Given the personality clashes and accusations of rank incompetence, volunteer abuse, mishandling of funds, and even sexual assault that were leveled at him (and his right-hand man, Jonathan ‘Fester’ Cooksey) in the weak aftermath of the Burn Wall Street project, the Org very likely had more than one excellent reason to give Otto the old heave-ho, regardless of any overarching plan to purge their ranks.

Meanwhile, during a Q and A with one of the directors after a screening of SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY in Reno, a woman in the audience asked “why was Burn Wall Street romanticized?”

Apparently, the director’s goal was to show projects from beginning to end. . . but the darker aspects of Burn Wall Street depicted in earlier edits of SPARK: A BURNING MAN STORY were deemed much too negative in comparison with the other elements of the film, and thus a great deal of ugliness connected with the project and with Otto personally was simply left on the cutting room floor in the interests of a more upbeat end product.

Otto made another interesting and not entirely accurate or true comment:

they also fired alot of other good people this year including the entire Man base crew.”

=====

Which brings us to the Man Base crew.

As nearly as we can gather, Otto’s assertion that the entire Man Base crew is being replaced is still just speculation, although certainly a possibility. The meat of the story so far seems to be that a dispute between the Org and Travis Ludy, who has been managing the crew that builds the Man Base for years, has escalated into a strike that may very well result in the entire Man Base crew being replaced, and the size of the 2013 Man Base scaled down dramatically to make up for lost time and the lack of an experienced crew.

Ludy was paid $8000 to build the Man Base in 2012. The Org reportedly tried to cut his pay in half for 2013, and Ludy declined in favor of holding out for the whole nut. When they tried to give his job to someone on his crew instead, that person turned the job down. . . and news of the attempt to cut Ludy out over money – possibly exacerbated by other crew members being let go recently – led to the entire crew rebelling and going on strike.

We’re told that a meeting was held just today to try to settle the dispute. . . so let’s see how the balloon goes up, or how the cookie crumbles. Will the Org really scuttle the entire Man Base crew, and is it really all over a paltry four thousand dollars, or is there a welter and web of politics and personal agenda and independent problems between the Org and individuals, all coming to a head at once?

More importantly, is there some kind of a deliberate reorganization going on, and if so, what are the intentions driving it?

My Kid Shirtcocked Your Honor Student

by Whatsblem the Pro

BRC: The happiest place on Earth?

BRC: The happiest place on Earth?

We’ve written about children at Burning Man before, and asked our readers to vote in a poll at the end of that article. The debate and discussion continues, and the poll numbers are running heavily in favor of people who think Burning Man is “a wonderful environment” for children, but there may yet be more to think and talk about on the subject.

Regular contributor Elias Has Wanderlust provoked a lively discussion in the Burning Man group on Facebook recently, by flatly asserting that Burning Man should be for adults only. Thus spake Elias:

Burning Man should clearly be an 18+ event — the city is not safe for children.”

Elias’ declamatory salvo brought forth a lot of frank anecdotes about kids on the playa, and some really good points on both sides of the debate. Interspersed with a modest dose of snark and some fairly irrelevant emotional appeals like “there is nothing more beautiful than a playa covered burner baby,” people actually started saying some interesting, illuminating things about bringing children to the playa.

It really is a thorny problem that people butt heads over readily. That should tell us that there are some contradictions in play, depending on the angle from which we approach the question of children at Burning Man; doesn’t radical inclusion make room for children? What about the inhibitory effect that children can have on adults at play? Isn’t Burning Man dangerous, particularly for children. . . but don’t we want our children to be raised in our culture, even if it is dangerous?

Some pros and cons to bringing children to the playa:

The real problem is that only two very partisan solutions have been proposed, and they’re both completely unacceptable to large swathes of burners. If we ban children, we ban a huge number of burner parents by association, and deny them the opportunity to transmit burner culture to their children early in the most meaningful way they know of. If we continue to allow children, they will continue to inhibit us when they show their faces outside of the Kidsville age-ghetto, and let’s face it: it’s only a matter of time before something ugly happens and someone’s child disappears and/or falls victim to one of the many, many hazards.

Your bundle of joy can't drink to forget his bundle of joy

Your bundle of joy can’t drink to forget his bundle of joy

People who think the answer is simple and obvious are merely displaying their bias and perpetuating the conflict. It’s disingenuous to say, for instance, that Black Rock City is a city like any other, and needs to have children in it. Burning Man’s municipal analogy is often usefully apt and sometimes beautiful, but it breaks down completely and easily in a dozen different ways when you start testing it. It’s a bit blinkered to say that Burning Man is just a big adult party, too; it’s also an arts festival, and a DIY theme park, and a great deal of it is very kid-friendly. . . or would be, anyway, if there weren’t so many heavily-intoxicated people around, and if it wasn’t all set in a context of overt sexuality that often goes way, way beyond mere nudity and into some territory that might actually disturb the minds of the innocent to witness.

We need an innovative solution that includes everyone, without putting limitations on anyone.

Maybe there should be separate events, geared for younger age groups? Burning Teen, Burning Tot? If we want to spread the culture, then spawning a few new events might be killing several birds with one stone.

We’d like to hear your ideas. How can we safely include the underage set and their parents in Burning Man, without muting the bacchanal for the adults?

Are ageist ghettos really the best we can do?
Are ageist ghettos really the best we can do?

What we don’t want to hear: more anecdotes or opinions about how it’s fine for kids to be out there, or about how it’s unacceptable for kids to come to Burning Man. We’ve already heard those positions, again and again, and they’re both too simplistic to lead to anything but disagreement and a standoff. We’re asking you to think outside the box and find a solution that everyone can live with.

Keep in mind that not all parents behave responsibly, but some do. . . so please don’t bother sharing anecdotes about the children of attentive, sensible parents having a great time on the playa, or anecdotes about dull-witted earth mamas walking around in dust storms cradling tiny infants. Both of these things happen, and much more, and that’s why we need a better solution than just banning or allowing children.

Your thoughts?

9 Ways to Die at Burning Man

by Whatsblem the Pro

The Craig Nielson Memorial Intersection at Burning Man - Photo: Danger Ranger
The Craig Nielson Memorial Intersection at Burning Man – Photo: Danger Ranger

The motto “keep Burning Man potentially fatal” is more than just humor; it’s a reflection of the fact that Black Rock City, for all its rules and regulations, began as an Autonomous Zone. Likewise, the warning on the back of each and every ticket: YOU MIGHT DIE, and that’s your responsibility.

It’s kind of an odd responsibility to have, given that the corporation that runs Burning Man ostensibly began as a response to a string of grisly deaths on and near the playa. You’d think that if co-opting an Autonomous Zone was a proper and necessary response to those deaths, the Org would want to explicitly take responsibility for people dying at Burning Man. . . but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, so the Org gets to put a fence around everything and sell tickets and make rules, but the potentially lethal nature of the event is still your problem and yours alone.

Keeping Burning Man fatal means hanging on to as much personal autonomy as we can in the face of the continuing Disneyfication of the event; paradoxically, it is also what prompts control freaks and opportunists to come up with new and unwelcome rules for us to burn by. The heart of the paradox is that in order to keep Burning Man potentially fatal, we need to look after ourselves well enough that our deaths remain unusual or even rare occurrences. Failure means being swaddled in overprotective regulations that smother our culture.

The trick is to keep people who are likely to die away from the event. We don’t publish stories about how dangerous and uncomfortable Burning Man is because we hate Burning Man; on the contrary, we love the party and are committed to the culture, but we recognize that it’s not for everyone, and that encouraging just anyone to come is a Very Bad Idea. Radical inclusion shouldn’t ever be a matter of luring or dragging someone woefully unprepared into a howling wilderness where they will be unable to cope with the prevailing conditions.

Technically, you can be almost certain that you won’t die at Burning Man. . . because even if your heart stops or your head comes off or you otherwise cease to function metabolically at Burning Man, you probably won’t be declared dead until you get to Reno. The Org’s propaganda machine takes full advantage of this technicality, and conveniently does not include deaths declared off-playa in their tally of deaths at the event, no matter how or where the mayhem happened.

This is not meant – by a long shot – to be a complete list of the many, many deaths that have occurred in and around Burning Man. This is an overview, intended to give you an idea of what might be in store for the unwary, the feckless, and the star-crossed among us.

1. GETTING THERE/LEAVING

If ghosts really do haunt the places where they died, then the highway to and from the playa must be an ectoplasmic fiesta of epic proportions. Insane, horrible traffic accidents; battered, overturned, burnt vehicles; blood and body parts strewn across the asphalt.

The examples of typical, ordinary – but horrific – highway accidents are too numerous to pick a single example, but here’s an extraordinary one: Craig Nielson, a young man who joined DPW for his very first burn in 2001, never quite made it to Burning Man. Nielson died on the road, reportedly crushed in a vehicular accident that led to him bleeding to death on the way to do his very first load-out. Details are sketchy, but he may have been riding on top of an RV.

One of two Bonanzas wrecked at the '03 burn - Photo by Rigged

One of two Bonanzas wrecked at the ’03 burn – Photo by Rigged

Let’s not forget that Black Rock City has an airport, too, and that it handles something like a hundred takeoffs and landings a day during the event. In 2003 there were two incidents involving aircraft; in one, a Beechcraft BE-35 reportedly lost engine power on takeoff, severely injuring the four people onboard. One of the passengers had to undergo several surgeries to remove pieces of the plane’s control panel from his sinus cavity, and the pilot, Barry Jacobs, later died of his injuries.

Please drive (or fly your small plane) carefully, avoid engaging in highway hijinks no matter how boisterous your spirits get in anticipation of the burn, and keep emergency supplies – like water and a first-aid kit – in the vehicle. The road to the burn takes you into a remote area; if you have an accident there, help is liable to be quite far away. One of the reasons that Barry Jacobs died is that it took well over an hour for first responders to get to the plane and get him out of it.

2. ART CARNAGE

The ban on driving anything but art cars and the five-mile-per-hour speed limit are not preventative measures; they are direct products of vehicular manslaughter on and near the playa. As Danial Glass reported in the Boston Phoenix, the 1996 burn brought some serious change:

Michael Fury, a friend of Larry Harvey and a creative influence at Burning Man, was killed in a collision while riding his motorcycle at night, playing chicken with a blacked-out van. Others died near a rave camp when a truck ran over their tent while they were sleeping inside.

In 1997, driving was banned on the playa, and fire art was prohibited in areas where people were camped. The admission ticket, which used to admonish participants to “Please keep weapons unloaded in camp,” now warned that firearms were banned within its borders. The county imposed its own restrictions as well. As Burning Man staff toned down the potentially destructive elements of the event, the rough-edged freedom waned considerably.

Those weren’t art car deaths, but the backlash made it a lot less likely for anyone to be killed by any vehicle at Burning Man that isn’t an art car.

In 2003, a burner named Katherine Lampman jumped off a moving art car because she wanted to get a closer look at the Temple of Honor. Somehow, she lost her balance and fell backward after landing, which placed her directly in the path of the car’s wheels. “I will never forget the feeling that surged into my hands through the steering wheel,” remarked Randy Emata, who was driving the art car that ended Lampman’s life. “My worst fears were followed by a myriad of terrified voices, screaming for me to stop the car. I ran back and discovered that the trailer ran her over. Her life was slowly coming to an end as she breathed less and less. Revival was attempted, but failure was inevitable. Someone grabbed a spectator’s bicycle and sped off to a nearby Ranger. Soon after, the Sheriffs showed up with an ambulance, taking her to the medical center. A helicopter was on its way. As I was writing out my statement, a deputy told me that the helicopter left without her and that she didn’t make it.”

3. DIY

There have been a number of suicides at Burning Man over the years, most notably that of Jermaine “Jerm” Barley, who hung himself in a Moroccan-style tent full of gym equipment at Comfort & Joy camp. The suicide went undetected for some time; as witness Don Davis remarked, “It looked like someone was playing a joke with a dummy.”

Rumor has it that a number of people saw Barley’s corpse hanging on a rope, and thought it was art.

Barley wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last. . . and there are also post-burn suicides to tally up. Some people can’t handle the coming-down phase of Burning Man; they return to the world outside Black Rock and everything seems so muted and washed-out by comparison. It can be a real downer. . . and it can and has led to suicides. If you count that as “dying at Burning Man,” then post-burn suicide accounts for more deaths than any other cause on this list. In at least one case, the suicide came several years after the actual event, but was very clearly related. Rest in peace, Paul Addis.

4. MOLECULAR MISADVENTURE

Drugs are like guns, kids. They’re just tools, and the important thing isn’t so much what they do to you; it’s what you do with them that makes the entire difference between use and abuse. Responsible adults use drugs responsibly, or not at all. Sometimes using responsibly means refraining from mixing your pharmaceutical experience with an overly-perilous environment. You don’t want to be wandering around in the middle of the desert alone with your head full of a drug like ‘cup,’ with its well-known side effect of dehydrating and disorienting the user. Even the effects of a drug as ordinary and seemingly harmless as Tibetan poon oil can lead to a serious health crisis on the playa, with your body in a constant state of overstimulated exhaustion and your environment sucking the moisture out of you like you’re inside a giant dessicant sachet.

Do we even need to talk about garden-variety overdoses? Your body is going to be taxed quite a bit out there, and you need to be sensitive to that fact if you’re going to chemically alter yourself in any way that might present a risk.

On the sunny side (along with sunstroke) there’s something positive to mention: although there have been drug-related deaths at Burning Man, burners seem to be quite a bit more responsible about their recreational substances than the average festival-goer. The 2011 AfterBurn report’s Medical section includes this comment from the emergency medical personnel that attended: “The numbers for alcohol- and drug-related patients continue to be remarkably low for an event of this size.”

5. REDRUM

There are two words you don’t say around Org people, or around your supervisors if you’re DPW: one is ‘rape,’ and the other is ‘murder.’ The Org doesn’t like these things – or any of the things in this article, for that matter – bandied about too freely. They actively instruct workers, both paid and volunteer, to stay mum regarding anything that might make them or the event look bad.

Johnson arrived at the DPW ranch wounded... and talkative

Johnson arrived at the DPW ranch wounded… and talkative

Happily, we don’t get a lot of murders at Burning Man (rape is another matter; they are depressingly frequent out there). That doesn’t, however, mean that nobody gets murdered. In 2003, Christopher Scott Johnson (aka “One-Armed Bandit”) showed up at the DPW ranch looking for work. His erratic behavior and his bragging about having killed a man prompted Will Roger and Ranch manager Matthew ‘Metric’ Ebert to call the police, who discovered that Johnson had indeed stabbed a man to death in a van on the road to the playa.

6. AUTO-DA-FÉ

It hasn’t happened so far, but give it time; someone without a posse is going to crank up FREE BIRD at the perfect moment, and an angry mob of zealous whatever-worshippers – enraged at this insult to the highly-evolved and enlightened wisdom that allows them to live superior lives of peaceful Buddha-like tranquility – is going to nail the offender to a cross and toss it into the flames of the Temple. . . and then we’ll have two religions to contend with on the playa.

7. WHOOPSIE-DAISY

Plenty of garden-variety accidents happen every year at Burning Man; people climb things and fall off; people ingest spoiled consumables; people trip over tent stakes; people have bicycle mishaps. Once in a while, especially in a city of 60,000 souls, these things are bound to be fatal.

In 1999, Jim Keith fell from a stage at Burning Man and broke his knee. The week after the burn, he entered the Washoe Medical hospital for knee surgery and died in the Intensive Care Unit shortly after surgery was completed, when a blood clot released from his broken knee entered his lung. The coroner’s report listed cause of death as “blunt force trauma.”

The accidents can usually be avoided, if you’ll just keep your eyes open, keep your stress level manageable, and use common sense. You know how it works: one minute you’re stressing yourself out arguing with your campmates while building some large structure as the Sun beats down on you, and the next minute you’re taking it out on the work, pounding nails a little too hard, until you end up applying your claw hammer directly to your forehead on the bounce-back. Or maybe you’re just walking around, not paying much attention, when a truck full of ice swerves to avoid a pothole and tips over and falls on you. Maybe you’re tired and want to get home as soon as possible, so you stay at the wheel for Exodus and end up falling asleep on it.

Most fatal accidents happen in the home; most in the bathroom. Leave the bathroom at home and you’ll be safer. The dust is your friend.

Nobody knows for sure what killed 37-year-old Adam Goldstone. The East Village DJ hit his head on some rebar, suffering at least a mild concussion, and later slipped or fainted in the shower in his RV, injuring himself further and eventually dying. Emergency medical personnel were summoned, but were unable to save him. Goldstone’s father was of the opinion that his son may have been felled by a heart condition.

Even in the absence of an accident, you might just happen to be on the playa when your time comes. Sometimes there’s just no dodging that bullet with your name written on it.

Erika the Red died tragically young with no warning

Erika the Red died tragically young with no warning

Erika “the Red” Kupfersberger died of an aneurysm on the playa in 2011, for no particular reason that had anything to do with being at Burning Man. People have heart attacks and strokes at Burning Man, not infrequently, and not always because of any particular environmental factor.

8. IN THE SOUP

The hot springs in the vicinity of the playa can be really wonderful, but they’re also perilous as hell to the incautious. . . especially Double Hot, with its twin maw of boiling danger. In 1849, a traveler by the name of Bruff wrote this about Double Hot:

Sept.22. In the first part we reached a pretty clear sparkling rill, about six feet broad, and a few inches deep; when to my astonishment the mules halted short at the edge, and refused in spite of the whip and shouting, to put a foot in it! I guessed there might be a vapor from it, but on putting my hand in, found it quite hot – not sufficiently to scald, however. So we had much trouble here, pulling and urging the teams over; and when they did go, it was accomplished by each pair of mules, in succession leaping over like deer, and thus jerking the wagons after them.

Next, on left, observed a cluster of hot Spring mounds, with their circlets of marsh and tall green grass.- In one lay a dead ox, apparently fell there yesterday; one hind leg in the basin of hot water, which had so well cooked it, that nought but white bones and tendons were left, of that limb, as high as the water had influence.

Some 150 years later, a burner gave the following report to Erowid.org regarding the local springs:

Probably the most dangerous hot springs is Double Hot, which is north of Black Rock about 10 miles. Great camping spot and really nice tubs, even a real bathtub at one location. The *usable* tubs are a hundred feet or so away from where the hot water comes up out of the ground and begins flowing downhill in a boiling hot stream. The tubs are holes dug to the side of the stream, and water is redirected according to the users’ comfort requirements.

The place where the hot water comes out of the ground is called the maw. There are actually two of them and they are incredibly beautiful, deep blue water and you can see down into the sweltering bowels of the earth several fathoms. The water is about 200 degrees. IF YOU FALL INTO THE MAW YOU WILL DIE. In 1994 I witnessed a family from Reno out on a little tour fail to exercise care around the maw. Their beautiful golden retriever–the family dog obviously for many years–thought she would go for a swim. I became aware of the disaster when the screaming began. The whole family was crying horribly as the father stuck his hands in the boiling water to pull out their pet. The little boy and the little girl were absolutely devastated and that is where my friend Louis directed his marvelous efforts to calm them down by telling them distracting stories, away from the scene. I helped the father who was cursing himself and crying uncontrollably. The dog went almost immediately into shock, as her skin began to slough off in patches about as big as my hand. Eventually most of the fur was gone. The family bundled their pet into a blanket and slowly made their way back to Reno. I am sure the father had second and perhaps even third-degree burns on his arms.

Note that the maw is not marked or protected by any sort of barrier.

9. DEATH BY EXTREME OBVIOUSNESS

Being burned to death at Burning Man, really? Sadly, yes. According to the 2001 AfterBurn report, “a participant who chose to run into a fire” later died of his burns in a Reno hospital. The incident apparently took place the night of the burn, somewhere on the deep playa.

You’re never going to know just exactly how much mayhem and death takes place at Burning Man, because the Org actively discourages anyone from talking about it, and discounts deaths that happen on the highway to or from the playa, or in places like Reno hospitals as a result of injuries sustained on the playa. . . but the number is probably much higher than you think it is. Please, don’t make a secret statistic of yourself. It’s your job to keep yourself safe and healthy out there, and the fewer who succeed at that, the harder it will become to keep Burning Man potentially fatal. Do a good job!