Sunday, October 1, 2023
HomeAnchorage Daily PlanetWhat will it take to retire the killer bus?

What will it take to retire the killer bus?

What is it going to take? Now, 24-year-old newlywed Veranika Nikanava has died just outside of Denali National Park as she and her husband tried to recross the rain-swollen Teklanika River after spending two nights at the infamous “Magic Bus.”

The dilapidated bus, Fairbanks Transit Bus 142, is located some 20 miles down the Stampede Trail, near Healy. It once hauled construction workers, but its axle broke and it was abandoned and since has been used as shelter.

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It gained notoriety in the late ’90s, when a book and movie titled ‘Into the Wild,’ were released. It chronicled the life and death of 24-year-old Christopher McCandless.

Throughout the years, the McCandless story has inspired hundreds around the world to make the arduous, dangerous pilgrimage to Healy to walk in McCandless’ footsteps and reach the bus where his body was found and recovered in 1992.

An unprepared McCandless had trekked into the Alaska wilderness with scant food and equipment. He spent the summer living in the bus and was found dead of starvation there four months later. The bus has become something of a monument for all-too-often unprepared hikers.

Each year, hapless hikers get lost, or are trapped by the rising Teklanika River, or somehow are injured and cannot get out. That has required, again and again, that rescuers risk their lives and resources to go find and retrieve them. It is expensive and dangerous. Between 2009 and 2017 there were more than two dozen such rescues.

Sometimes it is to no avail. In 2010, a 29-year-old Swiss woman drowned while trying to cross the Teklanika River. Now a second woman is dead and the bus remains a lure for others and a danger for their rescuers.

[Read the rest of this opinion at the Anchorage Daily Planet]



  1. Agreed. The McCandless site has become the Interiors Bermuda Triangle. Time to either destroy the bus and leave no trace. OR!!! A much better and profitable idea… Imagine that, a profitable idea.

    Will the, “government” allow it? Who gets the payoff$$$. Or does death and chaos triumph once again.

  2. Bubble wrap the world, it’s the only way to preserve the masses!


    It’s Alaska, people come here to push the edges. That often means death. Let’s not install bumper rails in “The Last Frontier”.

    • Joe:
      Something like that. I’m against moving it and always have been since this started. When I read about the recent “incident” with it, my first thought was it’s a venus fly trap for humans. It’s unfortunate for the girls who died, but they made their choice; I’m sure everyone knows the danger of the river. (The News-Miner article said these two were about out of food and ate what others had left in the bus, btw). I read a comment somewhere that suggested by the “move it” logic, we might as well move Denali, or…a list of other things from which people keep dying and need to be rescued from.

  3. Wouldn’t make a difference. If the bus wasn’t there there would still be people who want to go to where the bus was.

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