Burning Man Attendee’s Death Suspected Drug Intoxication: Coroner

Mimi Nguyen Ly
By Mimi Nguyen Ly
September 5, 2023US News
Burning Man Attendee’s Death Suspected Drug Intoxication: Coroner
Attendees gather to watch the burning of "The Chapel of Babel," a work of art by Michael Burlington, during the annual Burning Man Festival in the early morning of Sept. 5, 2023.(Julie Jammot/AFP via Getty Images)

Amidst a heavy rainstorm that trapped tens of thousands at Burning Man, a death reported at the festival is suspected to be due to drug intoxication.

Leon Reece, 32, of Truckee, California, was pronounced dead late on Sept. 1. after he was discovered unresponsive at the 2023 Burning Man festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada.

While rain caused a delay in accessing the area where Reece was found unresponsive, the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office indicated that weather didn’t seem to be a factor in his death.

On Sept. 5, officials from the Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office announced the preliminary results of Mr. Reece’s death.

“The cause and manner of death are pending investigation, but drug intoxication is suspected,” the office said in a statement.

The festival had been closed to vehicles after more than a half-inch of rain fell on Sept. 1, causing flooding and foot-deep mud. More heavy rain followed on Sept. 2. Attendees were left in a virtual lockdown and were advised to conserve food, water, and fuel.

After a 2 p.m. announcement, thousands began their departure from the Burning Man site on Sept. 4, marking a mass exit as attendees were informed they could leave by vehicle.

Amid the congestion, organizers asked attendees to consider leaving on Sept. 5.

“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,” read an update on the official website.

Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell told people to stay calm, adding that “there is no cause for panic.”

“We’ve made it really clear that we do not see this as an evacuation situation,” Ms. Goodell told NBC News on Sept. 3. “The water is drying up.”

The event began Aug. 27 and had been scheduled to end on the morning of Sept. 4, with attendees packing up and cleaning up after themselves.

Organizers also asked attendees not to walk out of the Black Rock Desert, about 110 miles north of Reno, as some others had done throughout the weekend. They didn’t specify why.

Typically, the event peaks with the burning of a massive wooden man-like effigy “the Man” and a temple structure on the final two evenings. However, this year, these burnings were delayed as officials tried to clear exit paths by the end of the Labor Day weekend.

On Monday night, “The Man” was set ablaze. The burning of the temple is set for 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

The event’s website notes that upwards of 60,000 people travel to the remote region in northwest Nevada each year for art, dance, and community.

This year, local news sources pegged the number of “burners” in Black Rock City at over 70,000. The festival began as a small function in 1986 on a beach in San Francisco.

From The Epoch Times

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