Veramika Maikamava, a 24-year-old Belarusian woman, died on Thursday in Alaska when she was swept away while trying to cross a rain-swelled river while hiking to the bus where Chris McCandless starved to death in 1992.
Maikamava was traveling with her new husband on a pilgrimage to the “Magic Bus” where the 24-year-old McCandless died under unclear circumstances in 1992. McCandless spent 118 days in the bus, which had been left there years earlier by a construction company which brought it in as a temporary shelter for its workers. McCandless’s story was made famous by Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book Into The Wild, and a 2007 movie version.
Newlyweds Veramika Maikamava and Piotr Markielau, both 24, were trying to cross the Teklanika River at the upper crossing along the Stampede Trail shortly before midnight when Maikamava was swept under the water, said Ken Marsh, a troopers spokesman.
The upper crossing, which is generally swift anyway, was running high because of recent rainfall, troopers said.
As the two were wading through waist-high water, holding on to a rope that spans the length of the crossing, Maikamava apparently lost her footing and her grip on the rope, Marsh said.
Markielau found his wife’s body about 75 to 100 feet downriver, troopers said. A trooper and volunteers from the Tri-Valley Fire Department reached the scene on ATVs and sent the body to the state medical examiner.
McCandless’s bus has proven an irresistible lure for many hikers, a number of whom have gotten into trouble in their attempt to reach it. The Fairbanks Daily News—Miner reports that there were 15 state-generated search and rescues involving the bus from 2009–2017. Many of them also involved problems crossing the Teklanika River, including a 29-year-old Swiss woman who drowned in 2010 at the same spot Maikamava was swept away.
Alaska State Troopers urged people “to be prepared and know your limitations, too. If that river is too high or too swift, know when to call it quits or to hold off.”
Locally, a debate over the bus flares up every time a hiker is killer or injured or requires rescue while trying to reach it. Local columnist Sean Doogan said his view used to be, “two cans of gas and a match would solve all our problems,” though in 2017 he wrote that he now believed the bus should be left to let nature (and tourist scavengers) take its course. But Doogan also quoted a dog sled tour operator who said, “I would say that most people who live out here want the bus gone.”