Artist and Gallery Manager Dies at Burning Man

A 29-year-old festival-goer died in a tragic bus accident.

Alicia Louise Cipicchio.
Photo: Via Facebook.

Tragedy has struck the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada, as 29-year-old art gallery manager Alicia Louise Cipicchio was struck and killed by a bus early Thursday morning, as reported by the Huffington Post.

The accident took place near Center Camp in Black Rock City, the temporary city, over five miles wide, that springs up each summer about 110 miles northeast of Reno, attracting some 70,000 attendees. The Burning Man festival was founded in 1986, and takes its name from the ritualistic ignition of a wooden statue of a man that marks the end of each year’s event. This year’s festival got off to an inauspicious start when rainstorms delayed its opening, turning the desert venue to a mudflat.

Festival-goers’ cars are prohibited onsite due to safety concerns, and a temporary transit system instituted for the duration of the event must adhere to a strict five-miles-per-hour speed limit. The bus that hit Cipicchio was transporting passengers from site to site within the grounds. As of now, it is unclear if drugs or alcohol were involved, but Burning Man does have a reputation for excess in both areas.

Cipicchio graduated from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, where she studied design and anthropology, in 2008. An anonymous coworker of Cipicchio’s at RARE Gallery of Fine Art in Jackson, Wyoming, described her to USA Today as an “amazing girl, full of life, loved by everybody.”

Alicia Cipicchio, who died this week at Nevada's Burning Man Festival. Photo: via couchsurfing.

Alicia Cipicchio, who died this week at Nevada’s Burning Man Festival.
Photo: Via Couchsurfing.

Her account on couchsurfing, an online social network that connects intrepid travelers and those looking for short-term housing with couches to crash on, listed Cipicchio’s interests as “nature, art, music, food, culture, philosophy, dancing, laughing.” Feedback from other surfers praised her as “an amazing artist!!!”

A email statement from Burning Man co-founder Marian Goodell called the tragedy “a terrible accident,” adding that “our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and campmates. Black Rock Rangers and Emergency Services Department staff are providing support to those affected.”

Because of Burning Man’s remote location in the Black Rock Desert, which has hosted the festival since 1990, it is difficult to evacuate sick or injured parties to medical facilities. Humbolt General Hospital, for instance, is only 120 miles away, but the journey takes more than six hours by car. The closest town, Gerlach, Nevada, is a mere 16 miles away, a journey that takes 90 minutes on desert roads.

Burning Man spokesperson Jim Graham issued a statement promising that law enforcement investigators from the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office are looking into the incident with the assistance of Burning Man organizers. He claims that this is the first death at Burning Man in seven years.

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