A 24-year-old Belarusian woman has died in Alaska after attempting to visit the abandoned bus featured in Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book “Into the Wild,” the Anchorage Daily News reports.
Veranika Nikanava was killed while trying to cross the Teklanika River near Denali National Park. She and Piotr Markielau, who were recently married, were hiking to the site of Fairbanks City Transit System Bus 142, called the “Magic Bus,” an abandoned vehicle that’s been parked for decades on Alaska’s Stampede Trail.
The bus provided a home for Chris McCandless, a hiker who used it as a shelter for months in 1992. McCandless died, apparently of starvation, in the bus that year. His story was told by Krakauer in a 1993 Outside magazine article called “Death of an Innocent,” which was later expanded into the book “Into the Wild.”
After the release of the book, the bus became a tourist destination for hikers intent on crossing the treacherous Teklanika to see it.
Nikanava was swept away by the fast-moving river, and her body was discovered by her husband about 30 yards away.
Yukon-based writer Eva Holland told the Washington Post that the bus has long been a popular destination for those inspired by McCandless’ story.
“I spoke to people who said they felt like the bus was a sacred place,” Holland said. “They felt like it had a special kind of magical aura about it.”
On Twitter, Holland said that Nikanava was the second known hiker to be killed while trying to make it to the bus.
Holland also told the Post that there have been discussions in the past about removing the bus from the location where it’s been for decades.
“Alaska commits to rescuing people in their wilderness, but they get frustrated when people are careless or unprepared,” Holland said.”I think that there are probably better ways to sort of honor the spirit of Chris McCandless.”
Krakauer’s “Into the Wild” became a bestseller shortly after its release in 1996. The book gained even more fame following Sean Penn’s 2007 film adaptation, which starred Emile Hirsch as McCandless. Reviewing the movie for The Times, Kenneth Turan wrote, “It’s [Penn’s] warmest, most celebratory and most completely realized film and, though you might not guess it from the material, it is also arguably his most personal.”
Chris McCandless’ sister, Carine McCandless, wrote a book about her brother, “The Wild Truth,” in 2014. The memoir featured a foreword by Krakauer.
In a 2014 interview, Carine McCandless told The Times that she and her brother grew up in an abusive household. “Going into the wild was far from crazy; it was the sanest thing [Chris] could have done,” she said.
Nikanava’s death is being investigated by Alaska state troopers.