TOOELE COUNTY, Utah (CBS Las Vegas) – Grantsville police say 30-year-old Christopher Wallace ran and jumped into a large fire at the Element 11 festival.
KSTU reports that the fire started as a three-story structure in the shape of a character from the book “Where the Wild Things Are.”
Festival officials say as the character was being burned, the man rushed past security and jumped into it.
Officials say there were about 25 to 40 people forming a perimeter around the fire to prevent people from getting too close but they were unable to stop Wallace from jumping.
Officials say that there was nothing they could do once Wallace was in the fire. They say any attempt may have led to more deaths.
“The people that form that perimeter, it’s not a hand-in-hand circle around,” safety coordinator J.P. Bernier told KSTU. There is space between these people so it will definitely have an impact about how we treat that perimeter in the future for sure. But I’m not going to place any blame on our community members or our volunteers. Everybody was in the right place at the right time. This guy was really motivated. He was fast. He didn’t respond to commands to stop. He clearly had an objective.”
Element 11 released a statement, which read: “This is a deeply upsetting event with tragic results; our hearts go out to the Utah community and the attendees of Element 11. This is a tragic event and we struggle to respond to it we ask for your patience while we find appropriate resources but please know we are committed to supporting those who are affected by this event in the best way we can.”
Some festival-goers can’t believe what they witnessed and others are taking it personally. “There were people crying and some were just kind of in shock,” a man who called himself Spike told KSTU. “There were a couple of fellows that were running to stop him and missed him and some of them couldn’t go toward the fire because it was too intense and they are taking that pretty hard.”
The festival is an annual event that features art projects created during the year, which participants then burn at the end of the festival.