By Tim Binnall
A fascinating new look at the Dyatlov Pass incident features several enlightening first-hand perspectives on the case, including rare insights from the sister of the doomed hiker whose name became synonymous with the mysterious event. Published by the BBC, the exhaustive and excellent piece revisits the infamous 1959 tragedy in which nine Russian college students perished in the Ural Mountains under unexplained circumstances that continue to flummox researchers to this day.
One of the individuals interviewed for the article was Tatiana Perminova, who was 12 years old when her brother, Igor Dyatlov, embarked on the ill-fated hiking trip. She remembered that their mother had actually attempted to dissuade him from going on the journey, arguing that he should focus on his studies instead. However, Perminova recalled, Igor managed to convince her after promising that it would his final trip into the mountains before he graduated. "And, indeed," his sister mournfully observed, "it was his last time."
Chillingly, Perminova revealed that she was the one who answered the phone at their home six decades ago when the authorities called with the shattering news that Igor had died. "The next day, my parents were summoned to the university," she said, "and the nightmare began." As for what may have caused the demise of her brother and his fellow hikers, Perminova indicated that the families were as mystified by the case as the rest of the world and were callously told by Russian authorities that "you will never know the truth, so stop asking questions."
"Don't forget," she stressed, "in those days if they told you to shut up, you would be silent." However, with six decades having passed since the incident, Perminova no longer harbors such fears. As such, she dismissed the popular prosaic theories for what killed the group, such as an avalanche or a hurricane, and suggested that something more sinister had occurred. "If it was just an ordinary hike which went wrong because of extreme weather conditions," she asked, "why did it worry the highest authorities in the country? I think it means something extraordinary happened."
While she did not seem to put forward a specific theory for what killed her brother and his friends, Perminova spoke to the tremendous pain the families have endured for the last sixty years with so many unanswered questions. "Emotionally speaking, this is very hard," she said, and noted an ongoing effort by independent investigators in Russia to exhume the bodies of the Dyatlov Pass victims for a fresh examination. "Just imagine, digging up their coffins," Perminova mused, "but if there is no other way to find the answers, ok, let's see what happens next."
Other first-hand witnesses featured in the piece include a man who took part in the search which led to the discovery of the hikers' bodies as well as a woman who lived in a nearby village at the time of the incident and claims to have seen a "bright, burning object in the sky" somewhat resembling a missile. That observation seems to lend credence to the possibility that Dyatlov and his companions died due to an accident that was covered up. This was echoed by another local man who was also 12 years old at the time of the incident and recalled how "there were rumors flying all over the city that these students had wandered into some kind of test or experiment."
All told, the BBC feature is a must-read for students of the Dyatlov Pass incident as it includes a wealth of heretofore unheard stories from individuals who were either intimately connected to the case, such as Perminova, or resided in the area in the aftermath of the puzzling event unfolded. It also features conversations with contemporary investigators who continue to try and solve the mystery of what happened to the nine hikers in the Ural Mountains on that fateful February night so long ago.