JUNEAU, Alaska (Reuters) - Alaska State Troopers on Saturday arrested a 26-year-old man in connection with attacks on two musher teams taking part in the Iditarod dog sled race that killed at least one dog and injured three others.
Two veteran mushers in Alaska’s Iditarod told race officials on Saturday that a person driving a snowmobile tried to drive the machine into their sled teams in apparent attacks.
Alaska State Troopers said they arrested Arnold Demoski in connection with the incidents, which occurred about 12 miles (19 km) from the Nulato checkpoint, about 582 miles (936 km) into this year’s 975-mile (1,570-km) course.
A dog belonging to four-time champion Jeff King was killed when his team was hit from behind by a snowmobile, and two of his other dogs were injured, the Iditarod Trail Committee said in a statement on its website.
“It did not seem like an accident,” King said, adding that the driver never stopped or returned to the scene. “It felt like an intentional attempt to scare me.”
King said the trail was 40 feet (12 meters) wide at the point of contact, and he and his team wore reflectors and lights to enhance their visibility.
The second driver, Ailey Zirkle, said she had been attacked in the same area by a person riding a snow machine who “repeatedly attempted to harm her and her team,” race officials said. One of her dogs sustained non-life-threatening injuries, the statement said.
The snow machine turned around several times and came back at Zirkle’s sled before driving off, according to police. Police said they arrested Demoski around 11:45 a.m. on charges of assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and criminal mischief, and located the snow machine.
“I don’t know we ever thought of this happening, an aggressive move on mushers intentionally made, which is what this appears to be,” Karen Ramstead, an official at the Nulato checkpoint, said in a video clip posted on the race’s website.
Both team were continuing with the race despite the incidents, the website said.
Some 85 mushers and their dogs set off on March 6 from the town of Willow, about a 90-mile (144-km) drive from Anchorage. Of those, only seven have withdrawn from the race.
Editing by Frank McGurty and Sandra Maler