Two dog sled teams participating in Alaska’s famous Iditarod Sled Dog Race were allegedly attacked by a drunken snowmobile driver early Saturday morning. From out of nowhere, Arnold Demoski of Nulato, Alaska, drove his snowmachine into the teams while coming home after a night of partying.
As reported by the LA Times, Alaska State Troopers arrested Demoski, 26, and charged him with assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, and six counts of criminal mischief. The police and a Nulato public safety officer escorted Demoski to jail on Saturday afternoon and suspect that he attacked the teams on purpose. He is scheduled to be arraigned in a Fairbanks, Alaska court.
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The two mushers, Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle, were shaken up, but unharmed after the incidents. However, the intoxicated driver’s irresponsible behavior left one dog dead and several injured.
The boozed-up snowmobiler didn’t even know he hit the teams. After waking up later on at home, Demoski noticed damage to his snowmobile and began hearing reports from local residents about the Iditarod attack. It was then that he realized he was responsible.
Four-time Iditarod champ Jeff King doesn’t think it was an accident, but a deliberate attack on his team. Although it was dark, the dog sled is well lit and easily visible. There was no way the snowmobile driver failed to see it, according to King.
King said Demoski was traveling at least 80 mph when he passed the sled and veered into the dog team. The impact was so forceful, a snowmobile part broke and flew into the air. King recovered the piece and brought it back into the Nulato checkpoint. The snowmobile part was later matched with a machine parked in Demoski’s yard.
Nash, a three-year-old male dog was killed in the attack. Two other males, Crosby and Banjo, were injured, but are expected to recover.
“One of my dogs was killed pretty much on the spot, and a couple others I gave first aid to the best I could and loaded them into my sled,” King said. “I kind of felt like a triage ambulance.”
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Demoski says the incident was an accident and he didn’t mean to do it.
“I just want to say I’m sorry. It was not intentional. That’s not me. I don’t do stuff like that.”
Not only is King convinced that Demoski’s actions were on purpose, Aliy Zirkle also said the snowmachine attack was intentional. She told local media that the drunk driver really wanted to kill her.
State troopers say Zirkle and her team were headed towards Nulato in a remote area along the Yukon River when a snowmobile appeared. It raced toward the team, hit the side of the sled, turned around several times, and then sped off into the dark. Later, the snowmachine reappeared, the driver revved the engine, and left.
The machine showed up yet again shortly thereafter. This time, however, the driver attacked the team of dogs from behind, injuring at least five of them.
Zirkle and King left their injured dogs in the care of veterinarians and have since continued on with the race towards Nome.
Nulato Tribal Council said they are “disturbed and saddened” about the Iditarod snowmobile attack and recognize the strong relationship between the annual event and the village.
“Over the years we have supported the race in all aspects from racers to dogs to logistics,” wrote First Chief Mickey Stickman. “We hope and pray this incident does not determine the future of the village of Nulato. The Native Village of Nulato apologizes for the harm to the mushers and their dog teams.”
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Known as Alaska’s “Last Great Race,” the Iditarod Sled Dog Race has seen dog deaths in the past related to collisions with snowmobiles. However, this is the first incident ever that appeared to be a deliberate snowmobile attack.
[Photo by Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport/Getty Images]