By Gabrielle Fonrouge
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 from Oklahoma, according to reports.
Aaron Joel Mitchell, originally from McAlester, Oklahoma, was attending his first Burning Man and had been living in Switzerland with his wife before traveling to the US for the event, his mother, Johnnye Mitchell, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
“He was in great spirits when we saw him,” Johnnye Mitchell, who saw her son last month, told the outlet.
“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 constr
uction 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, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
Johnnye Mitchell said she last saw her son Aug. 1 before he set off for an eclipse festival in Oregon. She knew he was planning for Burning Man next with a group of his friends.
She got the news from the hospital early Sunday.
“We are just in shock, total shock,” she said. “We can’t believe this happened.”
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.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reported rangers who work the event are prepped 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.