Alaska News

Newlywed woman dies after being swept away by river near ‘Into the Wild’ bus near Healy

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A woman from Belarus died Thursday night when she was swept away at a river crossing near Healy, Alaska State Troopers said.

Newlyweds Veranika Nikanava and Piotr Markielau, both 24, were trying to cross the Teklanika River at the upper crossing along the Stampede Trail shortly before midnight when Nikanava 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, Nikanava 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.

At the time, the couple were near the “Magic Bus,” where 24-year-old Chris McCandless died in 1992, according to Marsh. McCandless’ death was popularized in the 1996 book “Into the Wild,” which was later adapted into a feature film, and the bus has become an infamous destination along the Stampede Trail.


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

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the name of the deceased. Her name is Veranika Nikanava.

Madeline McGee

Madeline McGee is a general assignment reporter for the Daily News.