Five months after Aaron Joel Mitchell ran right into a wall of fire at burning Man’s pinnacle celebration critical year, some however not all questions neighboring his fatality are gift answered.

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His parents still have no idea why, no one his friends. His mom is using God to aid her heal, his friends, recollections that his adventurous life. 

"Honestly, he to be the closest thing to Jesus, in a brand-new age way," claimed his friend, Justin Berry, that was with Mitchell the entire week before he finished his life. 

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The Sacramento ar Coroner’s Office has actually officially ruled Mitchell’s fatality a suicide, despite the office listed the reason of death cardiac arrest, bodily shock and also third-degree burns top top 97 percent of his body, follow to the Sacramento ar Coroner’s Office final report.

Mitchell, 41, ran right into Burning Man’s main effigy as it was engulfed in flames top top Sept. 2. He died the following morning.

Burning Man, which attracts nearly 70,000 world to northern Nevada’s black Rock Desert every year, large a week before participants encircle the effigy to watch it burn come the floor under a dramatic screen of fireworks.


Mitchell “spoke around end the life,” during the festival, follow to the fatality certificate, obtained by the Reno Gazette Journal till last week.

The college of California, Davis Medical facility treated Mitchell, though staff did no conduct an autopsy report since the cause of fatality was apparent. When the hospital has actually not publicly released any type of further documents of Mitchell’s death, clinical staff told Mitchell"s mother, Johnnye Mitchell, no map of medicine or alcohol had actually been detected. 

“(The coroner’s office) called one time, yet we never heard noþeles more. The was simply a brief conversation,” said Mitchell’s mother, Johnnye Mitchell. “We’re doing nice good, but that’s among the hard things, we don’t recognize why it happened.”


Mitchell ran previous several great of volunteers stationed about the huge fire and also then into the inferno before on-site firefighters in fire resistant gear pulled that out. He was rushed come the on-site clinical clinic and then airlifted to university of California-Davis Firefighters Burn Institute local Burn Center, where he died.

Soon ~ the event, Mitchell"s mother wrote a handwritten letter to Burning man organizers, thanking them for your efforts and also received a variety of condolences in return. 


“We were just so thankful, so thankful for the human being that risked their resides to save his,” she said.

A sort adventurer

Mitchell was originally from McAlester, Oklahoma yet lived in Switzerland with his wife, Ladina. He met his wife while he to be traveling in Nepal, where she too was backpacking. 

“Not indigenous me, ns don’t understand where he obtained that feeling of adventure,” Johnnye Mitchell said. “We’ve stayed in McAlester every one of our lives. That a lot of ranches, a state prison and an ammunition plant.”

His mommy was unaware of any kind of mental wellness issues, she said, and he was never a troublemaker. That had much more friends 보다 she can count, shown by the girlfriend that proved up from all over the civilization to to visit the many memorials hosted in his honor.


Most photographs, even when he to be young, present Mitchell through a warm smile, heath blue eyes and, in an ext recent years, with light sandy hair past his shoulders. 

He to be attending Burning male for the an initial time critical year v friends, according to his mother, and called top top his means there. He"d visited his parental in beforehand August and then travel cross-country to the Eclipse Festival in Oregon, where he was photographed in two braids, rosy cheeks, and also grinning in yellow lame trousers that had a Barbie tucked into the pants band. 

When that phoned, roadtripping native Oregon to Nevada, her son sounded "festival"d out," Mitchell said. It was the last time she spoke to him. 

Mitchell"s friend of an ext than 13 years, Justin Berry, had been with Mitchell the entire week. Berry and Mitchell knew each other from once Mitchell lived in the Pacific Northwest. They provided to have wild time going to see among their favorite jam bands, vast Spread Panic.


"He was favor my mentor. He did yoga every morning. That made smoothies every morning. The was like Jesus come me," Berry said of Mitchell, who friends referred to as him through "Joel," his center name. 

"He to be a carpenter, the wore Jesus sandals, he always helped, he was magical," said Berry.

Mitchell purchase Berry"s ticket to burning Man, no a cheap gift considering that many tickets cost more than $400. Berry after that bought an RV, which Mitchell drove right into the event. 

Berry had actually no idea that he would certainly be steering it out without his friend. 

A week come remember

Mitchell danced the days far at burn Man, yet the nights to be different.

While friends would certainly venture out come through-sunrise parties and ride electrical scooters far and wide among the fancy lights, Mitchell would certainly go to bed early, prior to 10 p.m., Berry said. 

"I’d take his call from him (when he to be sleeping), and also I’d go and take picture of everything from the night," Berry said. 

As Mitchell slept, his friend took self in the desert night, and also they later on showed them all of the sights and also sounds past dusk. 


"I great we had actually all to be together, ns don’t understand that this would have happened," he said.

When Berry found out after ~ the burn that his friend had run right into the fire, he rushed earlier to the camp. There was small that he might do. Mitchell was most likely being rushed to the hospital by then. 

"Maybe in some weird means he did this because that us, come inspire united state to make better decisions. I wish the he can have made far better decisions, due to the fact that he’s no coming earlier from this," said Berry, who plans on returning to Burning guy this year. 

Berry still has actually photos the his friend from year past, but, as soon as Mitchell ran right into the fire, he had the phone with all of the photos his friends had actually taken because that him throughout their nights that whimsy. 

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Berry spent months after ~ Mitchell"s death hardly able come speak the him, and also it quiet is past difficult. He desires to perform something unique for his friend while at this year"s celebration, but he"s not certain what yet. 

"I feel prefer it’s mine job to go back and represent him," said Berry.

He wants civilization to remember him for the tremendous teacher, tough worker and goofy dancer the was, no the picture of the the dark figure running right into flames that went viral in the hrs after Mitchell"s death. 

"No one to know what to be going v his head. It only took 12 seconds," the said. 


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Each year BLM officials and Burning male organizers report on improvements needed to much better safety, security and also health standards. The bureau of floor Management and also Burning man organizers with each other are currently reviewing last year"s event and also planning because that the 2018 event, Aug. 26 come Sept. 3. 

There are no current alters to exactly how the occasion will be operated, but the federal firm also has actually not listed the stipulations for this year"s event, follow to BLM spokesman Kyle Hendrix. Such problems are typically disclosed v the issuance that the occasion permit in at an early stage August. 

The regards to the permit room subject come change, taking into account Mitchell"s death last year, Hendrix said. 


One potential adjust could be a fence during the burn, a precaution taken during the temple burn last year, less than 24 hrs after the incident. Another could be more trained staff and also volunteers on site throughout burns.

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"If it prevents someone native dying, that cares? The fire is so big, you’re going to see it," claimed Berry, who"s in assistance of together preventative measures. 

Mitchell"s mother, ~ above the various other hand, feels that whatever within reason has actually been excellent to make the event safe. 

"They had a the majority of barriers. Ns don’t recognize what they might have changed," Mitchell said. 

Since she son"s death, she"s leaned on her church community and faith because that support. She has tiny left the her kid besides some clothes, photos and his high institution yearbooks. 

“Everybody loved him, the was yes, really kind, he simply was such a great kid,” Mitchell said.