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Man dies after running into Burning Man festival fire

Aaron Joel Mitchell, aged 41, died of his injuries on Sunday

A man has died after running into the fire at Burning Man festival’s Man Burn ceremony. He ran through security officers and a two-layer security perimeter into the huge structure – though he was treated at the scene, he ultimately died in hospital because of his injuries. The sheriff said that he was not under the influence of alcohol, but they are still trying to determine whether he was on drugs or intentionally attempting suicide.

The man has now been named as Aaron Joel Mitchell, 41, from Oklahoma. Following the tragedy, the desert festival cancelled some of their scheduled fires on the Sunday, but still went ahead with the “temple burn”. More than 70,000 people attended the event, some 50,000 of which were present when the incident happened.

In a statement, the organisers said: “Now is a time for closeness, contact and community. Trauma needs processing. Promote calls, hugs, self-care, check-ins, and sleep.” The County Sheriff Jerry Allen said that Mitchell’s behaviour isn’t entirely unprecedented, and that “people try to run into the fire as part of their spiritual portion of Burning Man. The significance of the man burning, it’s just kind of a rebirth, they burn the man to the ground, a new chapter has started. It’s part of their tenets of radical self-expression.”

The festival usually concludes with the burning of a 40ft wooden effigy, meant to symbolise rebirth, and the burning of the temple to signal the end of the nine-day event. It’s not the first death at the festival: since it made its home in Nevada in 1990, there have been a number of fatalities, ranging from suicide to car accidents. As the New York Daily News reports, festival organisers made “emotional support teams” available to attendees this year.

Authorities are still investigating exactly what led Mitchell to jump into the fire.