July 27, 2019 / 1:35 AM / 4 months ago

Woman dies while trying to reach 'Into the Wild' bus in Alaska

(This July 26 story corrects 2nd paragraph to reflect that police now identify deceased as Veranika Nikanava instead of Veramika Maikamava)

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE (Reuters) - A Belarusian woman who was trying to hike to an abandoned bus at the edge of Denali National Park in Alaska made famous in the book and movie “Into the Wild” died after being swept away in a river, state troopers said on Friday.

Veranika Nikanava, 24, was pulled underwater when she tried to cross the Teklanika River with her husband Piotr Markielau, also 24, in their journey to the site where hiker Christopher McCandless perished in 1992, the troopers said.

There is a rope stretched across the river to help hikers, but waters were waist-high and swift-running when the newly married couple tried to cross on Thursday night, said Ken Marsh, an Alaska State Trooper spokesman.

“Ms. (Nikanava) apparently lost her footing and her grip on the rope,” he said in an email.

Hundreds of visitors have ventured over the years into the now-famous Stampede Trail along the edge of the park to try to reach the wrecked vehicle now known as the “Magic Bus.”

The abandoned Fairbanks city bus was used as shelter by the 24-year-old McCandless before he died of what the state coroner determined to be starvation. A diary he left describing his final days became material for the book written by Jon Krakauer and the 2007 movie, which stars Emile Hirsch.

Several hikers have struggled with the rough Alaska conditions attempting the pilgrimage to the bus.

A woman from Switzerland died in 2010, also drowning while trying to cross the Teklanika River. Several others have been rescued.

According to the latest available data, there were 15 state search-and-rescue missions into the area from 2009 to 2017, Marsh said.

Nikanava and Markielau had been married less than a month, Marsh said.

Her body has been recovered and sent to the state medical examiner’s office, the troopers said. 

Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage; Editing by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Sonya Hepinstall

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