Sometimes, tragedy borders on farce. An Oklahoma woman is grieving the death of her son after he died jumping into the fiery effigy at the “Burning Man” music festival. Aaron Joel Mitchell is survived by his mother Johnnye, who spoke to the Reno Gazette-Journal about her grief.
“Burning Man” is an annual music festival in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, named for the giant wooden effigy that the festival personnel builds and then sets on fire to mark the conclusion of the festival. Since people often try to jump into the flames as a prank or a symbolic gesture of rebirth, the festival employs park rangers to make a human chain around the effigy as it burns.
But at 10:30 PM on September 2nd, Mitchell managed to break through the line and headed right for the 50-foot effigy. He dodged rangers and firefighters, finally launching himself into the flames. The rescue efforts were obstructed by the fact that a large portion of the Burning Man was collapsing at the time.
The rescuers were able to retrieve Mitchell from the flames, and he was airlifted to a nearby burns unit.
Unfortunately, Mitchell died in hospital the next day.
Preliminary reports show that he wasn’t under the influence of alcohol, but the coroner cannot yet rule out the influence of alcohol.
Mitchell’s mother cannot understand why he would have jumped into the flames, and voiced her confusion in a newspaper interview.
Mitchell told the Reno Gazette that this was Aaron’s first Burning Man, and that he’d been living in Switzerland with his wife before he’d come back to the US for the event.
The last time Mitchell had seen him, he had been on his way to an eclipse festival in Oregon.
She doesn’t believe that Aaron was suicidal, or wanted to die before the event. “He was in great spirits when we saw him,” she said to the Gazette.
Mitchell is still processing her grief over her son’s death. As she told the Gazette, “He’s 41, but they are always your baby.”