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Death at Burning Man

2003-08-31 18:07:35.670826+00 by ebradway 13 comments

Accidents and injuries, and now death, rather than art and nudity are filling the media about Burning Man.

[ related topics: Burning Man Sexual Culture Journalism and Media Art & Culture ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-01 16:58:37.482493+00 by: Dan Lyke

As we woke up this morning, Charlene remarked "the lines have started, the dust is being kicked up by the traffic..."

In the Bay Area there's no mention of the death, just articles about the art and pictures.

Of course they run the death with a picture of Draco, but there's nothing useful, like which "art car" it was.

Also interesting is the mention of the two crashes this year, is the BE-35 one of the variants of fork-tailed doctor killers?

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-01 22:40:21.067145+00 by: Larry Burton

The BE-35 is the forked-tailed model of the Bonanza.

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-07 04:25:39.869874+00 by: meuon

30,000 people get together for a week, and ONLY two die. That's amazing.

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-07 06:02:02.690362+00 by: Diane Reese

There were two deaths? The media only mentioned one...

And call me weird, but I think "ONLY" two people dying out of 30,000 over a week's time is not a good statistic at all.

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-07 15:40:25.268635+00 by: Dan Lyke

Diane, in a populating of 30,000 with U.S. normal distribution you'd expect 7 or 8 people to die in a week. Burning Man is skewed young, so I'd expect a few less, but yeah: 2 deaths in a week in that size population is not bad.

I think the second death Meuon is referring to was a rollover on the highway during the exodus. An SUV touched the shoulder, the driver overcorrected, the driver wasn't wearing a seatbelt, so when the usual SUV thing happened it was game over. Again, in a normalized population of that size we'd expect 1/10th of a death due to highway accidents, but given that this population is skewed young, it's probably reasonable to see a death every two years or so there.

But it could also be that the pilot of one of the airplanes is not expected to live.

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-07 16:14:42.840835+00 by: meuon

In a society (even a temporary one), with almost no 'safety restrictions'.. home made rollercoasters, improbable vehicles, people doing things like: skateboarding behind and alongside art cars and party vehicles on bungee cords, dancing on platforms on moving vehicles, climbing structures obviously not meant for climbing as well as structures meant for it.. playing with flamethrowers, fire vortex makers, flaming balls of fire on chains.. and having sex in public places.. playing with 'rock and sock-em robots'.. often while 'altered' by alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep (sleep deprivation = the drug you can have tomorrow).. Yep, I'd say a couple of deaths are expected. That there are as few as there are, is amazing...

I'd heard mixed stories from Rangers and others about Katherine's death, multiple factors were involved. 'nuff said. Her loss was tragic, affecting many. She will be missed.

Burning Man: Darwinism in action - Survival is a personal option - Did you read the back of your ticket? - A society where you are responsible for your own self.

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-10 17:33:14.284721+00 by: meuon

Oh my gosh.. It's TERRIBLE: The news from San Fran - Lady Dies

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-11 01:14:04.168316+00 by: Diane Reese

meuon, your link needs some attention...? It's broken for me.

I am researching mortality statistics expected in a population of 30,000 in a single week. I still maintain that it's highly abnormal to expect 2 deaths per week, although I'm completely open to eating those words once I have the facts I'm working on unearthing. meuon, your point about "no safety restrictions" is the thing making me agree that, at Burning Man, it may be reasonable to expect a death or two now and then. But in a general population, I will be very surprised if I find it's that high, Dan. More once I have the rest of the facts...

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-11 04:48:13.707327+00 by: Dori [edit history]

Not scientific, just an anecdotal data point: I live in a town of about 11K people. The local weekly paper usually has about 3-8 obits per issue (today's had 6).

While the average age at death given in the obits is probably considerably higher than the average age at Burning Man, and while some of those obits are for people who only used to live locally, or just have family that live locally, I'd be surprised to find out that our death stats are that far off from average... which means that the Burning Man numbers may actually be low.

#Comment Re: [Entry #6480] Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-11 19:21:03.374825+00 by: Unknown, from NNTP


suggests that in the UK at least, you can expect approximately 10 deaths per 1000 people per year.

So in a week you'd expect 0.2 deaths / 1000. That's 6 deaths in 30,000 people over a week.

Of course, most of those deaths will be people dying of age-related illnesses. The death rate for the 20-50 year bracket is more like 4.6 / 1000 / year:


So if that's any reflection of the Burning Man age bracket then you'd expect ~ 3 deaths per Burning Man.

Of course, those who are already ill are unlikely to travel to BM, which should reduce the death rate compared with the average for the age group.

-- http://www.kantaka.co.uk/ .oOo. public key: http://www.kantaka.co.uk/gpg.txt

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-19 16:57:05.727004+00 by: Diane Reese

I've finally gotten the mortality statistics from my town clerk. I live in a town of almost exactly 30,000 (how convenient :-). In a given year, in the age groups from 15 through 54, there are 21 deaths, meaning less than one every two weeks. If you want to focus on individual cohorts, you have one death *annually* in each of the 15-24 and 25-34 age groups, six in the 35-44 group, and 13 in the 45-54 group. Even given the "high-risk activities" possible at Burning Man, two deaths in a week seems high. I will stop picking at this scab now. :-) Thanks for your indulgence (and the excuse for a crash refresher course in research techniques).

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-19 17:07:09.989579+00 by: Dan Lyke

Uhhh... I see a potential flaw in your numbers: In your town of 30k, how many are in the 15-54 age group?

#Comment Re: Death at Burning Man made: 2003-09-19 18:17:21.574409+00 by: Larry Burton

Another thing to consider in this is the number of deaths at each past Burning Man. I don't recall this being mentioned before so you need to consider the fact that the law of averages often has to play catch up.