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A snowmachiner admitted to drunk driving after he repeatedly struck 2 separate Iditarod teams early Saturday morning in what appeared to be a deliberate attack, killing one dog and seriously injuring others.
Around 2 or 3am on Saturday morning, as musher Aliy Zirkle and her sled dog team were making their way toward the Nulato checkpoint, a snowmachiner repeatedly attempted to harm her and her team. One dog received a non-life threatening injury. Jeff King (bib #61), who was behind Zirkle, experienced a similar incident 12-miles prior to his arrival at the Nulato checkpoint. This incident resulted in the death of Nash, a 3-year old male Husky. In addition, Crosby, a three-year-old male, and Banjo, a two-year-old male, received non-life threatening injuries.
Arnold Demoski, 26, had been out partying with friends on Friday night and says he became “black out drunk” before driving home on his snowmachine. He told the Alaska Dispatch News when he woke up Saturday morning he heard what had happened overnight on the Race trail, went to check on his snowmachine, saw the front panel missing, and immediately realized he was responsible. He called the village police officer right away and said he would cooperate with troopers.
Demoski was arrested Saturday afternoon and at the home he shares in Nulato with his parents, said Alaska State Trooper Robert Nunley, who flew to the village from Galena. He is charged with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and six counts of fifth-degree criminal mischief, Nunley said. More charges may be added.
A shaken, but stoic Jeff King described the horrific attack in an interview at the checkpoint:
King, who strongly supports dog safety on the Iditarod Trail, said he considered dropping out of the race after the death of Nash and injuries that took three more of his dogs out of the race, but finds comfort in continuing on what he described as probably the most beautiful, finest Iditarod he’s ever run. An advocate of “no dead dogs,” King said if he had somehow been at fault, he would likely have dropped out. Instead, he finds the silver linings. Had the snowmachine been just a few inches over, he would probably be dead.
The Iditarod Trail Committee noted that although the attacks set both Zirkle and King back in the more than 1,000-mile race from Anchorage to Nome, both teams plan to proceed with the competition.