Deaths at Burning Man

Deaths at Burning Man

Deaths at Burning Man

A rarely talked about aspect of Burning Man, one that perhaps the promoters deliberately keep under wraps, is the amount of deaths that occur every year at the festival. It’s not particularly surprising, after all accidents happen when you have some 70,000 people gathering in the middle of the desert, far away from the sterilised walls of a hospital emergency room. The gigantic sculptures that the festival is famous for, with the heavy machinery required to build them, provide ample opportunity for injury.


Drug related fatalities are actually fairly uncommon, it seems like most burners realise that wandering into the desert with a head full of LSD to have spiritual experience might not be as good of an idea as it sounds, and take necessary precautions. The leading cause of death is actually banal traffic accidents, people getting run over, or crashing their cars. It was precisely for this reason, after a campervan fatally ran over several people sleeping in a tent at night, that the organisers of Burning Man decided to ban the use of cars at night. Sadly, accidents still happen; the case of Katherine Lampman is typical, who died in 2003 after falling off a moving car. A particularly spectacular incident involved a plane taking off from the airport in Burning Man (yes there is an airport in Burning Man). The plane stalled as it was leaving, crashing back into the runway. One person died out of the four people that were injured.


The more morbid fatalities in Burning Man, although not common, involve suicide and murder. One man was reportedly left hanging in his tent for days before people realised it was not a piece of installation art. Another man was arrested for murder after boasting about killing someone in their campervan.


All in all though these events are not common. As long as proper precautions are taken Burning Man is not particularly more dangerous than other festivals. Respect the desert, be careful while driving, and wear bright colours/lights at night and you will be fine. For more advice about surviving Burning Man you can click here.