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The 9 Were Found Dead. We Still Don't Know Why

Revisiting the Dyatlov Pass Incident
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2020 5:00 PM CST
Updated Jan 19, 2020 3:33 PM CST

(Newser) – In 2019, Russian prosecutors announced they would be reinvestigating what's known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident: A 60-year mystery involving nine students who mysteriously died while on a skiing trip in Russia's Ural Mountains. Though scores of theories have been put forth over the years, the government is considering only three: that there was an avalanche, a snow slab, or a hurricane. In a lengthy piece for the BBC, Lucy Ash physically repeats the trip, shares bits from the group's diaries and letters, and talks to those still living who have some connection to the case. As those before her, she arrives at no answer. But she does surface the strong and lingering doubt that their deaths were natural ones. One member of the search party, now 83, recalls coming upon their tent and finding it sliced open from the inside, with mostly barefoot or sock-clad footprints leading away from it.

The next day he was among the group that found the first of their bodies. "The hands and the feet were reddish-brown," he says. A man who attended the funerals as a 12-year-old echos that, saying their faces of those in the open coffins were "the color of bricks. There was nothing in the newspapers, but everyone was talking about it. We thought it must be some kind of state secret." Many parents thought there was some kind of military connection, and Oleg Arkhipov, who has seen an investigator's files, says traces of radiation were detected in some of the students' clothing. A large quantity of alcohol was present for the autopsies, which he says may have been a precaution taken against radiation exposure. "Why did the young people leave their tent in such a hurry and cut their way out?" he asks. "Because they couldn’t breathe, perhaps?" (Read the full story.)

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