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Man’s death at Burning Man festival investigated as ‘suspicious,’ sheriff says

A man’s death at the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of northwestern Nevada is being investigated as suspicious, the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

On Thursday, deputies responded to a report of a death and found a man who had already been moved to a medical tent at the festival. Doctors told deputies they had already pronounced the man dead, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

“The scene was secured to be investigated and a Deputy Coroner transported the decedent to the Washoe County Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy,” according to the release.

The cause of death is under investigation, and the death is considered suspicious, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The man was identified as Shane Billingham.

The last death at Burning Man happened in 2017 when a man broke through two levels of security and ran into the flaming namesake effigy.

On-site fire personnel rescued the man, Aaron Joel Mitchell, 41, and took him to the festival’s medical facility, but he was too badly burned. Medical staff had him airlifted to the University of California, Davis, burn center in Sacramento – the closest to the festival. He was declared dead shortly after his arrival, The Bee reported.

Burning Man is a week-long counterculture festival in a temporary city erected in the desert about 100 miles north of Reno. The festival started Aug. 25 and runs through Monday

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Molly Sullivan covers crime, breaking news and police accountability for The Bee. She grew up in Northern California and is an alumna of Chico State.