A Belarusian woman was swept away and died while trying to cross a fast-moving river in Alaska in search of an abandoned bus made famous by the book and movie Into The Wild.

Situated along the Stampede Trail, the abandoned Fairbanks City Transit bus 142 has become somewhat of a pilgrimage spot in recent decades, sometimes with a devastating ending. The trail is over 161km southwest of Fairbanks.

"The river has always been kind of the deadly aspect of that trip," said Eva Holland, who has written about McCandless pilgrims. "It's fast and it's cold."

Tragically, the river proved deadly for one couple seeking the bus out.


At close to midnight on Thursday, Piotr Markielau, 24, called the Alaska State Troopers to tell them his wife, Veramika Maikamava, 24, had been dragged under the water in the Teklanika River, just outside of Denali National Park.

A rope extended across the river is meant to help hikers get from one side to other, but the water was rapid and waist-high, Ken Marsh, a spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers told Reuters. The segment the couple tried to cross was high because of recent rainfall, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

"Ms. Maikamava apparently lost her footing and her grip on the rope," Marsh said.

About 75 to 100 feet downriver, Markielau was able to pull the body of his wife, whom he had been married to for less than a month, from the river, according to Alaska authorities.

On Friday, state troopers said an investigation is ongoing.

Chris McCandless, who hitchhiked to Alaska after graduating college and donating his life savings, lived in what he called the "Magic Bus" for about four months. The story of his travels, and his death within the bus, was captured in the book by Jon Krakauer and later in the film directed by Sean Penn.

Since then, the bus has drawn curious visitors to its rugged site.

Some hikers come to the bus because of the deep emotional feelings they have toward McCandless and his 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."

Others, like the group of hikers who Holland profiled, might be in the area and are curious about the site.

The 'Magic Bus' has become something of a pilgrimage in Alaska.
The 'Magic Bus' has become something of a pilgrimage in Alaska.

Local sentiments about McCandless and the pilgrims vary. Some feel quite negatively toward him, that he approached a journey in an unforgiving area of Alaska and was not prepared for its hardships. Others have more of an understanding for him.

The state of Alaska rescues many people who are stranded, and they pay for it too.

"Alaska commits to rescuing people in their wilderness but they get frustrated when people are careless or unprepared," Holland said.

This is not the first time someone has lost her life at the mercy of the rushing river. In 2010, a 29-year-old Swiss woman drowned while trying to cross the river.

The river kept McCandless from crossing back because it was so high. The cause of his death was thought to be starvation, though Krakauer and others have hypothesised about what led him to that state of starvation.

There were 15 bus-related search-and-rescue operations by the state between 2009 and 2017, according to Marsh.

Holland said another death along the river might renew discussions about potentially removing the bus.

"I think that there are probably better ways to sort of honour the spirit of Chris McCandless," Holland said. "Finding your own adventure maybe, rather than trying to follow this very well trodden path."