INTERVIEW: Jeff King describes snowmachine attack

Jeff King was the first musher to the Yukon, wins a five course meal, and starts his 24 hour rest. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes / KSKA.)
Jeff King was the first musher to the Yukon, wins a five course meal, and starts his 24 hour rest. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes / KSKA.)

In the early hours of Saturday morning, Jeff King’s dog team was attacked by a reckless snowmachiner.  One of his dogs was killed, two are seriously injured. KNOM’s Emily Schwing caught up with King in the Nulato checkpoint to find out what happened.

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On the incident on the trail:

Last night, about 12 miles before I arrived to Nulato, one of the many snowmachines that were on the river struck my team at high speed. It did not hit my sled or me – and I am fine, I was not hurt in any way – but several of my dogs were hit. One was killed; one’s leg was broken, appears broken; and one is in serious condition with shock and impact.

I gave first aid to the dogs the best I could, loaded them in my sled and continued onto Nulato where I reported the incident. And at the point of impact, the snowmachine’s cowling had flown off, the driver did not stop, and he was a distant light in an instant. He went by at 80 or 90 miles per hour, hit me, never slowed down. His snowmachine cowling flew off and he was gone.”

On the aftermath:

[Did he say anything?] At 80 miles an hour? No. Emily, I’ve told you everything that happened. I gave the dogs first aid, the guy was gone. He never…he arrived at my sled at 80 and he never slowed down and departed at 80. It felt…I have two different lights on my sled, everything has reflectors on it…it really felt like reckless bravado and playing chicken.

Quite frankly, I’ve had it happen over the 40 years I’ve run dogs, once in a while somebody thinks it’s funny to scare you by going close to your dogs and your team. Whether or not that’s what has happened, I don’t know, but the incident has been reported to the troopers as a hit and run. And I will be continuing on the race. The dogs have received expert medical care are are on their way back to Anchorage, the ones who were hurt. The other 11 and I got a little nap and will be headed back on the trail this morning.”

On his decision to move on: 

“I’ve agreed to talk to you [Emily Scwhing] because it’s news, it did happen, It’s very sad, but I have a hunch I’ll have to talk about it less on the trail than if i go anywhere else. There’s no more good that will come from it at this point to either me or my team. I have a lot of family and friends and my girlfriend who will meet me in Nome. I’m not going to let this schmuck take any more the fun away.”

What he’s feeling:

“I have a sense of loss and anger but also of gratitude that more of my dogs were not hurt or killed or that I was not hurt or killed, because the guy – the snow machine was truly within inches of me at 80 miles per hour.”

I thought back to other people who have had impacts with snow machines over the years. I couldn’t help but think of Martin Busers’ son being tragically in an accident out of the blue. I couldn’t help but think of a friend’s Facebook post: ‘Appreciate every minute because it can change in a second. And it really can, even on the Iditarod trail.’

On whether he’ll be racing:

“I won’t dawdle, but that’s not my nature. If I am racing at all it will be to get away from the press.”