RENO, Nev. — The woman killed at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert Thursday studied art, loved the outdoors and worked as a manager of an art gallery in Jackson, Wyo., a co-worker said.
Alicia Louise Cipicchio, 29, died after she was hit by a bus near Center Camp in Black Rock City, Nevada just after midnight this morning, Burning Man spokesman Jim Graham said.
Cipicchio, who had been an art student at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, graduated in 2008.
She had a couchsurfing account, an online network where participants open their home to travelers around the world. On the site, she listed her interests as "nature, art, music, food, culture, philosophy, dancing, laughing" and her philosophy: "Love your neighbor."
Several couchsurfers described her as "such a sweet, loving, adventurous, caring spirit" and an "awesome surfer."
Cipicchio worked at RARE Gallery of Fine Art and lived in the resort town of Jackson, Wyoming near Yellowstone National Park.
An employee with the gallery, who asked not to be identified by name, said Cipicchio was an "amazing girl, full of life, loved by everybody." She worked in sales and management at the gallery, the employee said.
The bus was transporting passengers around the festival when the accident happened a little after midnight.
Burning Man organizers are working with law enforcement investigators from the Pershing County Sheriff's Office, Graham said in an e-mail from Black Rock City, the temporary desert city about 110 miles northeast of Reno that has nearly 70,000 people for the weeklong event.
It is not known whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the accident, he said. Participants' cars are banned from Black Rock City for safety reasons.
The event has its own transit system and a 5-mph speed limit is strictly enforced. Black Rock City residents are encouraged to bring mountain bikes and walk to as many of the venues as possible in the metropolis that has expanded through the years to more than 5 square miles.
"This is a terrible accident," Burning Man co-founder Marian Goodell said in an e-mailed statement. "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."
Burning Man began in 1986 as 20 friends gathered at the end of summer on Baker Beach in San Francisco. They built a wooden figure and lit it at the end of a ceremony.
The ritual moved to the Black Rock Desert in 1990 after park police wouldn't allow the fire and grew into a combination campout, performance venue, artist haven and experiment in communal living and greatly expanded during that decade. It's now a nonprofit organization committed to leaving no trace of its participants in between each year's event.
Because the event is far from cities of any size — the nearest town 16 miles away is Gerlach, Nev., population 200, but about 90 minutes away because of the roads — medical care beyond what volunteer doctors and health-care workers provide can be tough to get quickly.
Deaths do happen at Burning Man, Jim Parrish, Humboldt General Hospital chief executive, said earlier this week. The shortest route to his hospital from Burning Man is more than 120 miles, but travel time would be more than 6 hours because of the roads. The shortest travel time adds 100 miles to the trip. The hospital also has a helipad for air transport, but dispatching and getting there still takes time.
He said at least two other people have died there since the hospital began providing medical response in 2011.
Graham said the most recent death at the event was seven years ago when an attendee fell under a trailer. This is the first reported Burning Man death this year.
Contributing: The Associated Press