Burning Man Victim Suspected to Have Died of Drug Intoxication: Medical Examiner’s Office

Leon Reece, 32, died on Friday after being found unresponsive at the Burning Man festival in Nevada, according to officials

<p>JULIE JAMMOT/AFP via Getty</p> Vehicles line up to leave the site of the annual Burning Man Festival on September 5, 2023, after heavy rains turned the site in Nevada


Vehicles line up to leave the site of the annual Burning Man Festival on September 5, 2023, after heavy rains turned the site in Nevada's Black Rock desert into a mud pit.

The 32-year-old man who died at this year's Burning Man festival — which was plagued by heavy rains and muddy conditions — is suspected to have died of "drug intoxication," the regional medical examiner’s office said Tuesday.

Leon Reece was found unresponsive in the Black Rock Desert on Friday around 6:24 p.m. local time as the area was inundated with rain, Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen said in a statement Monday night, per The Daily Beast, The New York Post and the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"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, per the Post.

He was already pronounced dead by the time Pershing County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at the scene.

Related: Death Investigated at Burning Man During Storms That Have Left Thousands Stuck in Desert

Although an official determination of cause and manner of death are still pending, drug intoxication is suspected, the regional medical examiner's office said Tuesday, per the Post, NBC News and Fox affiliate KTTV.

An autopsy is being conducted, but his toxicology results could take six to eight months to complete, according to the Post.

The Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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A day after Reece died, attendees were advised to "conserve food, water, and fuel, and shelter in a warm, safe space," with access to and from the event closed due to the rainstorms that began on Friday.

Related: Burning Man 'Exodus' Expected Monday as Mud Dries Up and Roads Reopen

CNN reported the area received two to three months' worth of rain — up to 0.8 inches — in just 24 hours between Friday and Saturday morning.

The Burning Man website describes the city as "a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression and self-reliance" that attracts thousands of festival-goers every year. Travel Nevada notes that more than 70,000 people attend Burning Man annually.

After thousands were left stranded over the weekend in foot-deep mud, attendees were able to leave Black Rock City, organizers announced in an update on Monday.

Related: 6 Rescued After Hiker Loses Consciousness While Climbing Infamous Trail on Maine Mountain

According to the festival, over 36,000 people remained at the site as of 2 p.m. local time Tuesday, though the Gazette-Journal noted that long wait times for the exit are standard.

As of Tuesday morning, the Burning Man Traffic account on X, formerly known as Twitter, estimated the wait time as five hours due to the "exodus" traffic jam. By Wednesday morning, that had dropped to about 20 minutes.

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