The abandoned bus where American adventurer Chris McCandless died almost 30 years ago has been airlifted away from its longtime resting place in the Alaskan wilderness.
A helicopter on Thursday removed the 1940s-era Fairbanks city bus, which became a sometimes deadly tourist attraction, from the Stampede Trail on the remote side of the Teklanika River near Healy, Alaska. The operation was a joint effort of Alaska's Department of Natural Resources and the Alaska Army National Guard.
"After studying the issue closely, prioritizing public safety and considering a variety of alternatives, we decided it was best to remove the bus from its location on the Stampede Trail," Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige said in a statement. "We're fortunate the Alaska Army National Guard could do the job as a training mission to practice airlifting vehicles, at no cost to the public or additional cost to the state."
The dilapidated bus will be stored in a safe location while Alaska's Department of Natural Resources considers options for its permanent disposition, according to Feige.
The vehicle had been hauled to the Stampede Trail decades ago by a construction crew to house workers who were building a pioneer access road linking Stampede with Lignite on the Alaska Railroad. The bus was subsequently abandoned upon completion of the road in 1961 and used since as an emergency shelter, according to a press release from Alaska's Department of Natural Resources.
The bus was made famous by John Krakauer's 1996 book "Into the Wild" and a 2007 movie by the same name that told the story of 24-year-old McCandless, who in April 1992 hitchhiked to Alaska where he set out on the Stampede Trail with little food and equipment, hoping to live a simple life. He found the abandoned Fairbanks Bus 142 while hiking along the snow-covered trail and used it as a makeshift shelter that summer.
McCandless, who documented his trek with journal entries and snapshots, apparently tried to head back to civilization after a couple months, but the trail was blocked by the swollen Teklanika River, so he returned to the bus. He is believed to have died of starvation in mid-August 1992, approximately 113 days after he had walked into the wild. A group of moose hunters came across the bus that September and discovered McCandless' body inside.
Hundreds of fans and sightseers have sought to reach the abandoned bus by retracing McCandless' steps along the Stampede Trail. Many have died, were injured or required search-and-rescue services while doing so. Since 2010, at least two people have drowned on their way to or from the bus while crossing swollen rivers, according to Alaska's Department of Natural Resources.
"We encourage people to enjoy Alaska's wild areas safely, and we understand the hold this bus has had on the popular imagination," Feige said. "However, this is an abandoned and deteriorating vehicle that was requiring dangerous and costly rescue efforts. More importantly, it was costing some visitors their lives."