Man killed after running into huge Burning Man Festival fire named as married 41-year-old Aaron Joel Mitchell

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Tributes have been paid to 41-year-old married construction worker who was killed after running into the flames at Burning Man festival.

Aaron Joel Mitchell died on Sunday morning after running into the burning effigy at the festival on Saturday night.

Graphic images taken at the ceremony showed the horrifying moment he ran past security and dodged a chasing firefighter before leaping into the middle of the huge bonfire.

Following news of his death, his parents have spoken of their shock and paid tribute to their “loving” son.

Horrific: Mr Mitchell evaded a chasing firefighter and ran into the flames (REUTERS)

Mr Mitchell grew up in Oklahoma but had immigrated to Switzerland with his wife, his mother told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Johnnye Mitchell said she had last seen her son, known to family as Joel, last month before he went to a solar eclipse festival in Oregon and then to Burning Man.

“He was in great spirits when we saw him,” she said. “We are just in shock, total shock. We can’t believe this happened.”

‘Loving’: Construction worker Aaron Joel Mitchell

She described her son as a “loving and a nice person” and said he enjoyed “hiking and outdoors, running”.

His father, Donald Mitchell, said he was a good son and added: “You just never want something like this to happen.”

Police investigating Mr Mitchell’s death confirmed he had not been under the influence of alcohol at the time but a toxicology report is pending. 

Burning Man: The man jumped into the flames at the festival’s signature ceremony (AP)

Nevada’s Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen said: “We don’t know if it was intentional on his part or if it was just kind of induced by drugs. We’re not sure of that yet.”

He said attempts to rescue Mr Mitchell were hampered because part of the structure was falling while they were trying to get Mitchell out of it. 

“Rescuers had to leave him to allow the structure to fall and provide for rescuer safety before they could go back into the flames to extract Aaron from the debris,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. 

Ceremony: The model of a man is engulfed in flames (REUTERS)

Sheriff Allen said the festival has tried to contain the problem of people trying to run into the flames by having their own rangers stage a human-chain to prevent people from getting close. 

“People try to run into the fire as part of their spiritual portion of Burning Man,” he said. “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.”

Burning man: The festival is built in the middle of the desert (Reuters)

The festival, situated in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, released a statement saying that burns events through noon Sunday had been cancelled. However, the 8pm temple burn, another signature event that marks the end of the nine-day festival, was due to go ahead.

More than 70,000 people attended the art and music celebration which culminates with the burning of a towering 40-foot effigy made of wood, a symbol of rebirth. 


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