Authorities identify man who died at Burning Man

Authorities have identified the person who died at Burning Man, the Nevada festival that left tens of thousands of visitors stranded due to desert rain and muddy terrain, as 32-year-old Leon Reece.

The Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office said Tuesday that the Truckee, Calif., man died on Friday. While the investigation into his death is ongoing, coroners believe drugs may have been involved.

“The cause and manner of death have yet to be determined, but drug intoxication is suspected,” the office said.

The Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said it received a call Friday night that a man had failed to respond and that paramedics rushed to the scene. The sheriff’s deputies were delayed by heavy mud and inclement weather, and when they arrived a doctor had pronounced Reece dead.

Attendees watch as the effigy of the man burns at the end of this year's competitive Burning Man festival.
Attendees watch as the effigy of the man burns at the end of this year’s competitive Burning Man festival.

JULIE JAMMOT via Getty Images

Reece’s identity was revealed a day after around 70,000 festival-goers started their journey from Black Rock City, the makeshift town they’ve gathered in a remote part of the Nevada desert almost every year since 1986, after authorities lifted a driving ban due to the dire situation had weather.

While visitors to the arts-focused festival usually begin migrating on Sunday, officials told them on Friday night to expect delays, take shelter on the spot and conserve food and water pending a violent storm over the area and turned the normally dusty terrain into an impassable, muddy swamp.

When people were given the all clear Monday to begin exiting, the wait times for the exit from Black Rock City were reached Seven hours.

There were other deaths at Burning Man, including that of a 41-year-old Aaron Joel Mitchell in 2017. Mitchell died while pushing past volunteers and caught in the flames of the man, a giant wooden effigy that will be burned at the end of the festival.

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