Man dies after running into 3-story bonfire at Utah festival similar to Burning Man

  • Article by: MICHELLE RINDELS , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 14, 2014 - 1:35 PM

A man died over the weekend after jumping into a huge ceremonial bonfire at a Utah event similar to the Nevada countercultural festival Burning Man, authorities said.

The incident, which police are investigating as a suicide, happened about 11 p.m. Saturday at the annual Element 11 festival in Grantsville, which is about 36 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

Grantsville police Lt. Steve Barrett said the man had told some of the estimated 1,200 attendees in advance about his plans to run into the fire. The three-story-tall effigy, modeled on a character from the classic picture book "Where The Wild Things Are," had been burning for about 30 minutes and was fully engulfed when the man crossed a safety perimeter about 50 feet from the structure and jumped in, officials said.

"He was very fast; he was very motivated," J.P. Bernier, a spokesman for Element 11, told the Deseret News. "It wasn't an accident or any act of negligence on anybody's part. He had a very deliberate objective to get past our volunteers, past our safety perimeter."

Firefighters immediately tried to douse the flames, but were unable to save the man, Barrett said. Crews had measured the fire temperature at 2,000 degrees just prior to the apparent suicide.

Crews recovered the remains after the fire was put out, Barrett said. The man was identified as Salt Lake City resident Christopher Wallace.

Barrett said it was unknown whether drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident. Relatives of Wallace could not immediately be reached on Monday.

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