Man who died at chaos-hit festival named as mass exodus begins

Burning Man has finally come to an anti-climatic end as revellers begin their mass exodus after the event was overshadowed by a severe storm that trapped 70,000 attendees in the northwest Nevada desert.

The flooding had left attendees ankle-deep in mud and 70,000 people were thought to have been stranded.

Bad weather at the US festival made the ground too slippery to even walk on, with roads surrounding the area closed as vehicles couldn’t drive on them.

On Monday, the roads reopened and festival organisers began to allow traffic to start making the slow journey out of the area. That afternoon, organisers said that around 64,000 people still remained on-site.

However, even with permission to leave, festival-goers were advised to wait until Tuesday to begin their exodus to avoid congestion.

Amid the chaos over the weekend, authorities were also investigating a death at the festival and have now identified the man as 32-year-old Leon Reece, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

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A cause of death is yet to be determined but it was previously said to not be weather-related.

The festival build-up to the big ‘final burn’ was scheduled to take place on Monday evening but it’s not clear whether this was able to happen with festival-goers making their exit.

Flooding in the area was so severe that ‘three-eyed dinosaur shrimp’ have apparently woken up in the Nevada desert.

The crustaceans are said to have been ‘stirred’ by all the flooding in the Nevada desert.

According to the Independent, the shrimp can lay dormant for years in drought conditions, but have now ‘resurfaced to join the mud party at Burning Man’.

Meanwhile, Burning Man has confirmed on X – formerly known as Twitter – that people won’t be able to leave as early on Monday as they thought.

They wrote: ‘Gate Road remains too wet & muddy for most vehicles to safely navigate out of BRC this morning, but is drying. Exodus likely to begin around noon today, Monday 9/4.’

Festival organisers also asked people to consider leaving on Tuesday.

An update on the festival’s site read: ‘Consider delaying your departure from Black Rock City until Tuesday 9/5. This will alleviate large amounts of congestion throughout the day today, Monday 9/4.’

But nevertheless, guests started pouring out of the festival on Monday and Black Rock City’s airport was back up and running by 12pm local time.

As if the weather wasn’t enough, there had been even more panic amid rumours the deadly Ebola virus was spreading through the site.

Some accounts on X- sparked whispers, while others even shared fake screenshots claiming to be from the Centre For Disease Control (CDC).

Thankfully, there is no evidence to suggest this is true, and the CDC hasn’t issued any such warnings.

However, the battle against the elements is very real, and Muse frontman Matt Bellamy biked through miles through the Nevada desert to leave the event as heavy rain has left thousands stranded.

Celebrities had also descended on the art event, with the likes of Chris Rock and Diplo seen fleeing the chaos in fits of giggles as they waded their way out of the mud for two miles before a fan picked them up in a truck.

Grabbing his poncho and hitting the road, Muse rocker Matt cycled out of the festival and documented the journey on his Instagram page.

He shared pictures and videos across his wet and rainy trip, all smiles in a fetching red waterproof, fur coat, and thick eyewear to protect against the elements.

What is Burning Man Festival?

  • A nine-day celebration of art and self-exploration, Burning Man describes itself as ‘community and global cultural movement guided by 10 practical Principles’
  • The event takes place in Black Rock City, a temporary community built in Nevada
  • The organisers say: ‘We don’t book acts or provide entertainment. What happens here is up to you! There is no corporate sponsorship.’
  • They added: ‘There are no spectators! You are expected to participate, collaborate, be inclusive, creative, connective and clean up after yourself.’
  • The 10 Principles include: Radical inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical self-reliance, Radical self-expression, Communal effort, Civil responsibility, Participation, Immediacy and Leaving no trace

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‘Biked out of Burning man to Gerlach, 5 miles through boggy wet desert and 12 miles on mountain roads, epic journey!’ he captioned the post.

Dublin singer Daytona Rose is among those still at the festival, and she admitted it’s too dangerous to try and leave at the moment.

She told RTE Radio 1: ‘Even going from camp to camp is difficult… lifting your foot up with that mud stuck to your shoe is very heavy… it’s pretty crazy, I’ve never experienced anything like it to be honest.’

Taking to Instagram, she added: ‘Some electrical chords were close to catching fire on Friday night when it rained really heavy, that was fairly scary to say the least. Everyone has shown kindness though and we’re all banding together to share supplies to get through this! What a first burning man experience !! (sic)’

One possible escape route from the festival has remained viable, which involves a five-mile hike through the mud to the blacktop country road 34 – and it’s this option that model Kelly Gale, 28, and her 43-year-old fiance Joel Kinnaman and their pals opted for.

On Saturday afternoon local time, the Victoria’s Secret model took to Instagram with a photo of her feet clad in walking boots, which she had taped plastic bags around in an attempt to avoid them getting bogged down with mud.

‘Fingers crossed,’ she captioned the picture on her Instagram Stories as their trek began, and she kept fans updated with snapshots of their progress before showing Joel striding next to her in mud-covered boots as she observed they were ‘getting to safety’.

The festival is famous for the giant wooden man that is burnt at the end of the event, and for its interactive art installations.

The Burning Man campsite has turned from a sandy desert into a total mud-bath due to a half-inch of rain, and organisers have urged people to ‘conserve food, water, and fuel’ and to ‘shelter in a warm, safe space’.

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In the meantime, they added that no one is allowed to leave or enter the site, with the gate and airport in and out of Black Rock City still ‘closed’.

Anyone planning on travelling to the festival – which was due to run from August 27 until September 4 – will be ‘turned around’ as it’s now shut for the remainder of the event.

Adding on their X – formerly Twitter – account, organisers told people in the desert to ‘help each other stay safe’ amid the adverse conditions.

According to the BBC, a source at the event said that ‘everyone is fine’ but there is a ‘sense of uncertainty’, adding: ‘Signal [across the camp] is the problem, we can’t really communicate with anyone.’

The source also noted that portable toilets were out of use, and those in tents were being allowed into the family campervan facilities.

The floods have even awoken some bizarre organisms that can lie dormant in the desert for decades until the right conditions.

Triops – also known as dinosaur shrimp, with their ‘three eyes’ – and fairy shrimp (sea monkeys) are among them, and they’ve started to stir.

This isn’t the first time Burning Man has been faced with challenging weather conditions, after last year’s event experienced a sudden sandstorm.

Someone who’s got nothing but love for the festival, though, is Elon Musk, who’s hailed it as ‘the best art on Earth’ despite all the chaos.

He tweeted on Monday: ‘Burning Man is unique in the world. Hard to describe how incredible it is for those who have never been. Best art on Earth.’

Burning Man 2023 vs. Woodstock ’99

The chaotic scenes at Burning Man have reminded people of Woodstock ’99 after Netflix’s Trainwreck documentary last summer, which told the tale of the festival revival that descended into violence and mayhem.

Hot temperatures and high prices (with reports of water bottles charged at $4 and few free taps) added into the mix, and over that weekend, there were 44 arrests made, 1,200 admissions to onsite medical facilities, and three people died.

The official synopsis of Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 reads: ‘Woodstock ‘99 was supposed to be a millennium-defining celebration of peace, love and great music.

‘Instead, the festival degenerated into an epic trainwreck of fires, riots and destruction.

‘Utilising rare insider footage and eyewitness interviews with an impressive list of festival staffers, performers and attendees, this docuseries goes behind the scenes to reveal the egos, greed and music that fuelled three days of utter chaos.’

Thankfully, scenes at Burning Man appear much more serene despite the chaos.

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