Man dies at Burning Man Festival

Columnist Mikki Taylor 

Columnist Mikki Taylor 

Music festivals are meant to give people a chance to listen to live music and enjoy the art of the performers that are featured. Lately, in this day and age we have come across incidents of death increasing at these festivals. Drugs, heat exhaustion, alcohol, dehydration and even frostbite, are negatively affecting people at these events.                 

 According to the Press Democrat, Aaron Joel Mitchell, 41, went past security officers into the fire at the Burning Man festival ceremony, suffering burns that left him dead just a few hours later. Right away medical staff and security new that he was under the influence of something. Nevada County Sheriff Jerry Allen stated, “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.”   

Burning Man has been occurring every year since 1986. The festival itself features artists, both musically and contemporary, that show new beginnings and create vibes of peace through their performances. It is not meant to be a place of horror, which is what happened when Mitchell jumped in the fire.

Burning Man isn’t the only festival in the United States that had caused death by influence. The Los Angeles Times said there have now been 28 confirmed drug-related deaths nationwide since 2006 among people who went to raves organized by Los Angeles-area companies. 

One of the most popular among these festivals is Hard Summer. The event features the most popular performers of the year, a series of artists that produce EDM music that is listened to worldwide. In 2016, three young students died at the Hard Summer Event. Their deaths seemed to be caused by the illegal drug, Ecstasy. 

Supervisor of the festival Janice Rutherford said, “the financial liability to the county, and the potential for more tragic deaths, are too great.” Rutherford tried to stop the festivals at the venue after the fact, but the high demand made it difficult. 

Alyssa Byrne, a 19-year-old, died at the annual Snow Globe Festival in South Lake Tahoe on New Years, 2013. At the festival, the young girl got lost from her friends and was found four days later frozen to death. 

Byrnes father, Kevin Byrnes, soon after decided to start a program at the festival to stop these types of things from happening. Byrnes Father states that “our message is for kids to have a great time, experience it, but make sure you’re prepared for the elements.”

Byrnes father started passing out hot chocolate and space heaters to people at the festival a couple years after. He also made it clear to the patrons that “buddy system” is necessary to practice to have a safe experience at these events. 

One thing that seems to be preventing the danger is checking in on the people at these festivals. A company called Dancesafe practices harm reduction for people who attend these types of festivals in North America. They provide drug checks, to see if what people are taking have deathly doses of chemicals. They also provide education to people about drugs overall. Dancesafe in my opinion should be extended to educate throughout the whole globe.

Music Festivals should not be a place of self harm. Drugs may be unpreventable at these events, but being able to educate and make sure people are practicing it safety is vital. We can only hope that more people will start participating in harm reduction and using the resources offered to save lives.