It’s time to move the “Magic Bus,” the old, beat-up transit bus that has become a mystical magnet for many and a curious destination for others.
In fact, it’s well past time to get rid of the bus, which has been made famous through the book “Into the Wild” and the subsequent movie, both about the story of the wanderer Christopher McCandless, who spent his final days in the bus in 1992.
Sadly, too many others have found their own end trying to reach the bus or trying to return from it, falling victim to the Teklanika River that crosses the route to the bus, located up the Stampede Trail near Healy.
The latest tragedy took the life of 24-year-old Veranika Nikonova, who was swept away in the river a week ago as she and her husband, Piotr Markielau, also 24, were trying to reach the bus. The river had risen to a dangerous level because of recent rainfall.
The bus is located on state land, so clearly the state has the authority to do something about it.
But the state hasn’t done so.
The persistent failure to remove the bus is inviting more trouble, meaning more rescues and, yes, more deaths. It will happen again.
That the bus has been allowed to remain is difficult to grasp.
Rescuing people costs money. With the state apparently short of it, removing the bus can be seen as a fiscally responsible thing to do.
Rescuing people and doing body recoveries also potentially puts the lives of the rescuers in danger.
No, a rescue or death doesn’t happen every year. It has been a couple of years since such an incident has occurred. 2013 was a particularly troublesome year with the bus. That year, three German hikers had to be rescued when they couldn’t get back across the river, which was running high. A month later, three more hikers had to be rescued.
In other incidents:
• A 29-year-old Swiss woman died crossing the river in 2010.
• Two U.S. hikers had to be rescued in 2016 after they were almost swept away by the river.
• A 42-year-old Belgian man was rescued in 2017 after being trapped on the far side of the river.
In all, the state has responded to 15 incidents from 2009-17, according to Alaska State Troopers.
So the question is this: How many more deaths and rescues are needed to get state officials to remove the bus?