Another Tourist Has Died Seeking the “Into the Wild” Bus

River crossing proves fatal on a hazardous trek

Replica bus
A replica of the bus that Chris McCandless lived in, built for the film adaptation of "Into the Wild"
Madeleine Deaton/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / July 28, 2019 4:23 pm

In a remote corner of Alaska is an abandoned bus that holds a profound significance for a dedicated group of people. In 1992, Chris McCandless spent several months living there  before his untimely death. Jon Krakauer wrote about McCandless’s life in the acclaimed book Into the Wild, which was later made into a film by director Sean Penn. Many years have passed, but the bus remains there, a beacon to some.

Its remote location makes visiting it a decidedly hazardous journey, however, and the pilgrimage there has resulted in the loss of several lives over the years. The most recent of these tragedies took place last Thursday, when a woman from Belarus died in a river crossing near Healy, Alaska.

Veramika Maikamava, 24, was traveling with her husband Piotr Markielau. The couple, newly married, was embarking on a trip to visit the bus when they reached this particular river crossing, which proved fatal. The Anchorage Daily News report on her death set the scene: “The upper crossing, which is generally swift anyway, was running high because of recent rainfall, troopers said.”

Deadspin’s article on the tragedy cites a report noting that “there were 15 state-generated search and rescues involving the bus from 2009–2017.” The point in the river where Maikamava was killed has claimed other lives: a Swiss woman died there in 2010. 

This bus’s status as a tourist attraction has sparked a lot of debate over the years, for understandable reasons. In 2014, The Guardian described the conflict among area residents concerning the allure and dangers of the bus. The headline of a 2016 Vice article was more direct: “​Why Do People Keep Trying to Visit the ‘Into the Wild’ Bus?”

When a compelling narrative meets a dangerous landscape, the potential for tragedy is high. This week’s events in Alaska serve as a sobering reminder of that.

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