Burning Man reveals new details about death of man during Nevada desert washout

The man’s death is said to not be related to the uprecedented two to three months’ worth of rainfall which fell over the weekend

Amelia Neath
Monday 04 September 2023 11:02 BST
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Chris Rock and Diplo saved from Burning Man by fan in pickup truck

Burning Man organisers have released new details about the death of a man during the washout in the middle of the Nevada desert.

Authorities said on Saturday that an individual had died at the festival but details remained scant about the cause.

On Sunday night, Burning Man organisers gave an update saying that the death of the unnamed man, 40, was “unrelated to the weather”.

Emergency services had responded to a call about the 40-year-old man found on the playa on Friday but could not resuscitate him, the organisers of the festival said.

His identity has not been released but the next of kin have been notified.

Further details have yet to be provided by Burning Man organisers and the investigation into the death is still ongoing by the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office.

The death of the man came as heavy rains hammered the festival, creating thick mud that trapped thousands of damp campers and muddy vehicles.

Black Rock Desert in Nevada, where the festival was held, experienced around two to three months’ worth of rain, up to 0.8 inches in just 24 hours between Friday and Saturday morning.

The large downpour turned the arid desert floor into thick mud, making it difficult for festivalgoers to even manoeuvre through.

“A little over 70,000 people” are still stuck on the festival site, Nathan Carmichael, a sergeant from Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said. Many RV’s are still unable to move their way through the dense mud. People were told to preserve food and take shelter while the ground dried up.

Many campers are rushing to try and escape the mud-ridden desert

Roads are expected to open again on Monday morning – allowing revellers to leave – after being shut over the weekend, a statement from the festival organisers said. However, it is not yet clear when this will take place.

An update on the Burning Man Website, on the page “Wet Playa Survival Guide” confirmed that the gate into Black Rock City remains closed and will open only when it is safe to do so.

“We will be opening for Exodus on Monday morning 9/4. We will inform the community as soon as we make the decision by 9am,” Burning Man Communications said in a statement on Sunday.

While sunny weather is expected to return after the weekend’s downpour, many festivalgoers tried to leave the Burning Man site overwhelmed with the mud.

Among them was DJ Diplo who was attending the festival. The DJ posted videos on social media showing how he walked several miles through the mud before being picked up by a fan.

The Sheriff’s Office said that those who tried to make an escape from the festival in vehicles while the clay-like mud remained churned up the ground making the situation worse.

Burning Man, a festival established in 1986, focuses on art, self-expression and community spirit. There are no headline acts or scheduled performances, instead, participants build and run art projects and events themselves.

Black Rock City is a temporary city erected especially for the festival. It accommodates organisers and emergency services in order to keep the festival running as smoothly as possible.

The burning of the Man, a ritualistic torching of a 40-foot effigy, performed every year at the festival, was due to take place Sunday night but has now been rescheduled to Monday evening.

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