The party-goer who burned to death when he threw himself into a massive, flaming effigy at the Burning Man festival has been identified as a married, 41-year-old man named Aaron Joel Mitchell.
Aaron was originally from Oklahoma and had been living in Switzerland with his wife before traveling to the US for the event. It was his first time attending Burning Man.
“He was in great spirits when we saw him,” said his mother, who saw her son last month. “He’s 41, but they are always your baby … he was loving and a nice person … [he] liked hiking and outdoors, running.”
She said Aaron worked in construction and did not have any children.
Aaron died at a California hospital hours after he ran through a human chain of security guards and launched himself into a giant, 50-foot-tall construction that was being burned to the ground as part of the annual festival’s rituals.
Officials in Pershing County said initial rescue efforts were hampered because a portion of the gigantic Burning Man was falling at the same time rescuers were trying to get Mitchell out of the flames.
Reports said Aaron was not under the influence of alcohol but a toxicology test is pending to see if he was on drugs, which are highly popular at the counter-culture festival.
Rangers who work the event prepare ahead of time to look out for three different types of people who may try to run into the burning effigies: people trying to get attention, people who are on drugs or intoxicated and don’t understand the danger, and those who are suicidal. Unfortunately, that preparation was not enough to save Aaron this time.