One sled dog was killed and three others injured while competing in Alaska’s venerable Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race after a snowmobile was slammed “purposefully” into two teams.
A 26-year-old man has now been arrested and is facing a slew of charges for the attack early Saturday morning. He has told local media he was driving drunk and didn’t intend to hurt anyone.
The Iditarod Trail Committee said the mushers and their dogs were “purposefully hit” along the Yukon River not far from the Nulato checkpoint during the storied 1,000-mile Anchorage to Nome pilgrimage.
“Thank you all for your thoughts, concerns, well wishes, light, prayers and love,” the team posted. “Our thoughts are also with Jeff King and his team. The sorrow he must be feeling right now!”
But Musher Jeff King wasn’t so lucky.
King told the Alaska Dispatch News about his terrifying encounter with a “high-speed snow machine” in the middle of the night. Three-year-old Nash, died almost instantly, he said, adding that Crosby, a 3-year-old male, and Banjo, a 2year-old male, were seriously injured.
King performed some emergency veterinary care and scooped his animals into his trailer and made it to the checkpoint.
“I actually thought two of them were dead,” he said. “…I really felt if he was six inches over than I would be dead.”
King said there was no way his team couldn’t be seen even in the dark. They had lights and were covered with reflectors. And whomever hit them, didn’t even stop to see if anyone was hurt.
“It certainly felt like an intentional act of reckless bravado,” King said, adding: “…He didn’t turn around, he didn’t slow down, he was gone.”
King fondly recalled Nash as “stoic” and condolences from animals lovers are pouring in from around the world.
Here he is singing to Nash, then pudgy little puppy.
Arnold Demoski, 26, was arrested Saturday afternoon and charged with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and six counts of fifth-degree criminal mischief, according to Alaska State Troopers. Other charges could be added.
But before he was arrested, Demoski, of Nulato, told multiple media outlets he was out partying and drunk when he got on the snowmobile. Demoski, a fan of the race – King being his favorite musher – said he only knew anything was amiss when he woke up in the morning and saw the damage to his machine. He also apologized to the teams
In a phone interview with Alaska Dispatch News Saturday, Demoski said he hit the teams while driving blackout drunk.
“I don’t care if people know if I was drinking and driving,” he said. “I’m really glad (Zirkle) and (King) are OK and I really feel sorry for Nash.”
He told KTUU television about his problems with alcohol: “It’s ruining my life,” he said.
Both Zirkle and King are continuing to race.