Thursday, September 20, 2018

Surviving member of 1959 Dyatlov Pass incident dies at age 75

Yuri Yudin, the sole surviving member of a party of Russian students who perished in the mysterious 1959 Dyatlov Pass incident, died on Saturday at the age of 75.

On January 23, 1959, eight men and two women from the Urals Polytechnic Institute set out to ski-hike to Mt. Otorten in the northern Urals, The Telegraph reports.

The group traveled to the village of Vizhai before heading towards Mt. Otorten on Jan. 27, but the following day, Yudin contracted dysentery and was forced to turn back.

The remaining students were caught in a snowstorm on Feb. 1, deviating to the slopes of a mountain called Kholat Syakhyl-Mansi for "Mountain of the Dead"-where they stopped and pitched their tent on the mountainside. Igor Dyatlov, the group's leader, had promised to contact colleagues as soon as the group returned to Vizhai on Feb. 12, but due to the unpredictable weather conditions, his colleagues were not surprised when the group did not arrive as scheduled.

On Feb. 20, relatives of the missing students sent out a search party of volunteers. Six days later, the group's abandoned tent was found, torn and half covered in snow, where it had been slashed open with a knife from the inside. Most of the group's belongings, including skis, food, shoes and warm clothing were still inside as if it had been abandoned in a hurry. The footprints of eight or nine people wearing socks, a single shoe or bare feet were found in the snow. The footsteps headed toward a forest, but disappeared after 500 meters, according to The Telegraph.

Two male bodies were found barefoot and dressed only in undergarments at the edge of the forest near the remains of a fire. Three other bodies, belonging to Igor Dyatlov, the leader of the party, and another man and woman, were found between the fire and the tent, suggesting they had been trying to return to the tent. An investigation revealed that all five died of hypothermia.

Two months later, the bodies of the other four members of the team were found, partially dressed, in a forest ravine not far from the first two bodies. They appeared to have suffered traumatic pressure or crush injuries, and one's tongue had been ripped out. Tests showed small traces of radiation on their bodies and clothing. The Soviet military conducted tests, concluding that the group had died from unspecified "natural forces they were unable to overcome." The case was closed and classified as secret, and skiers and travelers were barred from the area for the next three years, The Telegraph reports.

In the 1990s, an investigator wrote an article on the incident, suggesting that the victims had been killed by energy from strange fireballs seen in the sky at the time by other students hiking nearby, local tribesmen and members of the military search team.

Yudin was the sole survivor and rose to become an administrator in the Solikamsk Perm region of Russia after the incident. He said he felt that the Soviet military had been responsible for the incident in some way, according to The Telegraph.

Yudin said in an interview last year that authorities had asked him to identify several items found at the scene. He was unable to place certain items with the team and said they seemed to be of military origin, suggesting the Russian military had found the tent before investigators.

"If I had a chance to ask God just one question, it would be, 'What really happened to my friends that night?'" Yudin said, The Telegraph reports.