The reveler, who died at the annual Burning Man festival, has been identified as a 32-year-old man, authorities announced Monday – while the thousands of stranded partygoers now face an hours-long, snarling traffic jam to escape the Black Rock’s muddy grounds Desert.
Leon Reece was found unresponsive around 6:24 p.m. Friday while the festival was torrentially raining, Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen said in a statement Monday night.
His cause of death is not yet clear, an investigation is underway.
Authorities had previously said Reece’s death appeared to be unrelated to the weather, but Allen said the stormy conditions delayed efforts to send aid.
“Pershing County dispatchers received a call regarding a male individual who was unresponsive on the ground at the Burning Man Festival, and medical personnel performed CPR on the man,” Allen said in his statement.
“Due to the unusual rain event at Playa, access to the area and investigative efforts have been delayed.
“Upon the arrival of officers from the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office, the festival doctor had already determined that the male, later identified as Leon Reece, a 32-year-old man, was deceased.”
He said officers at the scene interviewed witnesses and medical workers but were unable to immediately determine Reece’s cause of death.
The victim was then taken to the Washoe County Coroner’s Office for an autopsy.
Allen also used his testimony to deny rumors of Ebola spreading at the campsite.
“Upon consultation with the Bureau of Land Management and the Burning Man Project, there is no validity to reports of an Ebola outbreak or any other disease,” he said in a statement.
Doctors had warned participants to take care of their health as they were stuck in the muddy desert for days.
Stagnant water, portable toilets and cold weather put festival-goers at risk of hypothermia, foodborne illness and COVID-19. Medical professionals told Business Insider.
Revelers were also urged to conserve food and water in light of the flooding.
But they were finally able to leave Black Rock City on Monday afternoon when local officials lifted a travel ban.
Now, 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 the social media platform
Attendees were also asked not to leave Black Rock Desert like others – including comedian Chris Rock and DJ Diplo – did over the weekend.
According to a video posted to Instagram by Diplo, whose real name is Thomas Wesley Pentz, the two had apparently walked six miles through the mud on Saturday before riding in the back of a fan’s pickup truck.
Still, some revelers abandoned their vehicles and personal belongings in a desperate attempt to flee the desert as quickly as possible. Allen told the San Francisco Chronicleas he beat up the frustrated and “angry” attendees.
He said they “showed no sympathy to those around them who have been going through the same issues over the past few days” as they attempted to leave the desert on Monday night.
“As is usual in what Burners calls the ‘Standard World,’ people allow their emotions to override their reason and smack each other as they leave the playa and try to get to their next destination ‘ Allen told the Chronicle.
“This behavior definitely does not fall under Burning Man’s 10 Principles, but that’s not his fault [the Burning Man Project] neither, but it is a societal problem.”
These Burning Man organizers are ultimately responsible for cleaning up the playa – the name of the festival site – and the entrance and exit streets, Allen said.