The reveler who died at the annual Burning Man festival has been identified as a 32-year-old man, authorities announced Monday — as the thousands of stranded partygoers now face an hours-long snarling traffic jam to escape the muddy grounds of the Black Rock desert.
Leon Reece was found unresponsive at around 6:24 p.m. Friday while the festival was experiencing heavy rains, Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen said in a statement Monday night.
His cause of death has not yet been determined, and an investigation is underway.
Authorities have previously said Reece’s death appeared unrelated to the weather, but Allen said that the stormy conditions delayed efforts to send help.
“Pershing County dispatch received a call regarding a male subject who was on the ground and unresponsive at the Burning Man Festival and medical personnel were administering CPR to the male,” Allen said in his statement.
“Due to the unusual rain event happening on the Playa, access to the area and investigative efforts were delayed.
“Upon the arrival of Pershing County Sheriff’s Office deputies, the doctor at the festival had already pronounced the male subject, later identified as Leon Reece, a 32-year-old male, deceased.”
He said deputies at the scene interviewed witnesses and medical responders but were unable to immediately determine Reece’s cause of death.
The victim was then transported to the Washoe County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.
Allen also used his statement to deny rumors about Ebola spreading on the campsite.
“In consultation with the Bureau of Land Management and the Burning Man Project, there is no validity to any reports regarding an Ebola outbreak, or any other disease,” he said in a statement.
Doctors had warned attendees to watch their health while they were stuck in the muddy desert for days.
Stagnant water, the porta-potties, and cold weather put festival-goers at risk of hypothermia, food-borne illnesses, and COVID-19, medical professionals told Business Insider.
The revelers were also urged to conserve food and water amid the flooding conditions.
But they were finally able to leave Black Rock City on Monday afternoon when local officials lifted a travel ban.
Now the festival-goers are caught in an epic traffic jam on the 5-mile dirt road to the nearest highway.
The Burning Man Traffic account on social media platform X estimated the exodus travel time at 6 hours early Tuesday — as organizers urged people to delay their departure until later Tuesday.
Attendees were also asked not to walk out of Black Rock Desert as others — including comedian Chris Rock and DJ Diplo — did over the weekend.
The pair had apparently walked six miles Saturday through the mud before hitching a ride in the back of a fan’s pickup truck, according to a video posted on Instagram by Diplo, whose real name is Thomas Wesley Pentz.
But some revelers still abandoned their vehicles and personal property in a desperate attempt to get out of the desert as quickly as possible, Allen told the San Francisco Chronicle, as he slammed the frustrated and “angry” attendees.
He said they were “not showing compassion to their fellow man who have endured the same issues over the past few days” as they tried to leave the desert Monday night.
“As usually happens in what Burners refer to as the ‘default world,’ people allow their emotions to override their reasonableness, and they are lashing out at each other as they leave the Playa and attempt to make it to their next destination,” Allen told the Chronicle.
“This behavior definitely does not fall within the 10 principles of Burning Man, but that is not the fault of [the Burning Man Project] either, but is a societal issue.”
Those Burning Man organizers are now ultimately responsible for the clean up of the Playa — the name given to the site of the festival — as well as the entrance and exit roadways, Allen said.
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