Aaron Joel Mitchell was attending his first Burning Man event in Black Rock City, Nevada when it happened. The 41-year-old married man ran directly into a huge, flaming effigy at the event, bypassing a human chain of security guards. The massive, 50-foot-tall burning effigy was part of several rituals at the annual Burning Man festival.

As reported by ABC News, while the effigy was surrounded by security guards, officials in Pershing County said rescuers were unable to get Mitchell out of the fire in time, as a portion of the flaming effigy was falling as it happened. Mitchell was initially treated on site, but due to the nature of his injuries he was then airlifted to a burn center in California, but died from his injuries.

Victim was attending his first Burning Man festival

According to a report by the Reno Gazette-Journal, Mitchell originally hailed from McAlester in Oklahoma, but had been living with his wife in Switzerland. Johnnye Mitchell, his mother, told the news outlet that her son had traveled to the U.S. for the eclipse and for the Burning Man festival and that it was the first time he attended the annual event.

Mitchell said she last saw Aaron last month and that he was in “great spirits” at the time. He was heading to an eclipse festival at the time in Oregon. She said he had told her he was planning to also attend Burning Man with a group of friends.

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Mitchell’s family is in shock over his death

When Mitchell heard the news from the hospital Sunday she said they were in “total shock” and couldn’t believe it had happened. She said even though he was 41, your kids are always your baby, adding that he was a nice and loving person who enjoyed hiking and running outdoors. She added that her son worked in construction and that the couple had no children.

According to official reports, Aaron was found not to be under the influence of alcohol when he ran into the fire and was burned. However, a toxicology test is being run to establish if he had taken any drugs, popular with attendees at the Burning Man festival.

The video below purportedly shows Mitchell running into the fire – please note that sensitive viewers might find the footage upsetting.

Final Temple ritual at Burning Man proceeded as planned

Meanwhile, the final ritual was held at Burning Man, the day after Mitchell died. There was unusually heavy security for the final ritual, which involved the burning of a wooden temple.

Event co-founder Crimson Rose said the extra security was requested by the federal land manager following Mitchell’s death. Rose said they wanted 350 additional security guards surrounding the Temple ritual, but there ended up being almost double that number, and a metal security fence was put in place.

The government reportedly wanted to cancel the Temple ritual, which is a ceremony that marks the end of the week-long festivities, which see around 700,000 participants each year. However, Rose said they wanted to show the government that they could move forward after the tragic death of Mitchell and that it was a testament to their spirit. She said they had a ritual to complete.