Authorities are investigating the death of a man who rushed past layers of security officers into a massive fire at the Burning Man festival's signature ceremony on Saturday night (2 September 2017). Aaron Joel Mitchell, 41, broke through a two-layer security perimeter during the Man Burn event in which a giant, wooden effigy is set ablaze.

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Aaron Joel Mitchell, 41, who died after running into the flames at Burning ManFacebook
Burning Man 2017
Aaron Mitchell evades a chasing firefighter and runs into the flames of the burning effigy of The ManJim Bourg/Reuters
Burning Man 2017
Aaron Mitchell falls into the flames of the "Man Burn" after evading the attempted tackles of multiple rangers and law enforcement personnelJim Bourg/Reuters
Burning Man 2017
Firefighters are forced to abandon their attempted rescue of Aaron Mitchell as the structure begins to crumble and fall around themJim Bourg/Reuters

Nevada's Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen estimated that there was a crowd of about 50,000 people who were present when the festival's crew of firefighters pulled Mitchell out of the blaze. He was airlifted to the UC Davis hospital burn centre in California, where he died on Sunday morning. The sheriff said doctors confirmed Mitchell wasn't under the influence of alcohol, but a toxicology report is pending. "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," Allen said.

Mitchell was a US citizen who had a home in Oklahoma but apparently was living in Switzerland with his wife, the sheriff's office said.

Attempts to rescue Mitchell were hampered because part of the structure was falling while they were trying to get Mitchell out of it, the sheriff's office said. "Rescuers had to leave him to allow the structure to fall and provide for rescuer safety before they could go back into the flames to extract Aaron from the debris," the sheriff's office said in a statement.

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An aerial view of the effigy of The Man, created for the 2017 Burning Man festivalJim Bourg/Reuters
Burning Man 2017
The effigy of The Man bursts into the flamesJim Bourg/Reuters
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A Burning Man Ranger guards the inner perimeter around the effigy of The Man as it burnsJim Bourg/Reuters
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Burning Man participants who go by the Playa names Jill Trashley and Recycle Michael of Burning Man's "Recycle Camp" are illuminated by the flames as they watch the effigy of "The Man" burnJim Bourg/Reuters
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A Burning Man participant is illuminated only by the fire as she watches the effigy of The Man burnJim Bourg/Reuters
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Burning Man participants from the Revolutionary Motion fire conclave spin in front of the effigy of The Man just before it is burnedJim Bourg/Reuters
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The Man is engulfed in flames as approximately 70,000 people from all over the world gather for the annual Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of NevadaJim Urquhart/Reuters
Burning Man 2017
Thousands of participants gather to watch the Man burnJim Urquhart/Reuters

Attendees have tried before to run into the flames while the man is burning and there have been reported injuries from people trying to get a piece of the spectacle as a token and going through the hot coals.

Allen said it's a problem that the organisers have tried to contain by having their own rangers stage a human-chain to prevent people from getting to the fire. Allen said that this is the first time someone has gotten through like this and the only fatality that he's aware of in his 15 years with the county.

"People try to run into the fire as part of their spiritual portion of Burning Man," Allen said. "The significance of the man burning, it's just kind of a rebirth, they burn the man to the ground, a new chapter has started. It's part of their tenets of radical self-expression."

Burning Man organisers went ahead with the burning of The Temple on Sunday night, another signature event that signals the end of the nine-day festival.

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Volunteers guard the perimeter before The Temple is set alight at the end of the festivalJim Urquhart/Reuters
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A fence surrounds The Temple before its burnJim Urquhart/Reuters
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The 2017 Temple at Burning Man created by artists Steven Brummond, Marisha Farnsworth, and Mark Sinclair as a place for people to place memorials, to mourn and grieve is seen in an aerial photo shot over the Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of NevadaJim Bourg/Reuters
Burning Man 2017
The Temple burns, bringing an end to the annual Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of NevadaJim Bourg/Reuters
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Participants watch The Temple burnJim Urquhart/Reuters

More than 70,000 people attended the art and music celebration in the Black Rock Desert, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of Reno.

Known for eclectic artwork, offbeat theme camps, concerts and other entertainment, Burning Man began in San Francisco before moving to Nevada in 1990. Over the years as the event grew in popularity, deaths and crime have been reported, ranging from car crashes to drug use.

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Black Rock City, a gathering of approximately 70,000 people that is created annually for the Burning Man arts and music festival, is seen in the Black Rock Desert of NevadaJim Bourg/Reuters
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An aerial view of a sector of Black Rock CityJim Bourg/Reuters
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An aerial photo of an impromptu dance party in the open desert as Burning Man participants dance around art cars with large sound systemsJim Bourg/Reuters
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A marionette walks across the playaJim Urquhart/Reuters
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Participants fight in Death Guild's ThunderdomeJim Urquhart/Reuters
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Participants push the art piece The Jack along the playaJim Urquhart/Reuters
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The mutant vehicle Abraxas travels across the playa
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The sun sets on over the playa as approximately 70,000 people from all over the world gather for the annual Burning Man arts and music festival in the Black Rock Desert of NevadaJim Urquhart/Reuters
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Participants compete in blindfolded oiled wrestlingJim Urquhart/Reuters
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A participant takes in an elevated view of the cityJim Urquhart/Reuters
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A mutant vehicle drives through the cityJim Urquhart/Reuters

In 2014, a man in Utah died by jumping into a huge ceremonial bonfire in an event that was similar to Burning Man. It was investigated as a suicide.