Sled dog dead after snowmachiner attacks Iditarod teams

Kaltag turned out tocheer on Aliy Zirkle. The made signs to show their support after she and Jeff King were attacked on the trail. (Photo by Emily Schwing/KNOM.)
Kaltag turned out tocheer on Aliy Zirkle. The made signs to show their support after she and Jeff King were attacked on the trail. (Photo by Emily Schwing/KNOM.)

Updated 3/12/16 at  2:30 p.m.

Update: State troopers have arrested a Nulato man accused hitting the teams of Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King while driving a snowmachine on the trail outside of the village.

26-year-old Arnold Demoski is facing several charges after being arrested just before noon Saturday.

From Alaska State Troopers online dispatch:

UPDATE: On 3/12/2016 Alaska State Troopers responded to Nulato and located the snow machine involved in the incident and identified a suspect. At approximately 1145 hours, Alaska State Troopers arrested Arnold Demoski, 26 of Nulato, for two counts of Assault in the third degree, one count of Reckless Endangerment, one count Reckless Driving and six counts of criminal Mischief in the fifth degree.

Original story:

In Saturday’s early morning hours, a snowmachiner repeatedly tried to harm Iditarod veterans Aliy Zirkle, Jeff King and their teams outside of Nulato, according to an Iditarod press release, killing one dog and injuring several others.

Zirkle told Iditarod officials that as she was making her way to the Nulato checkpoint, the snowmachiner repeatedly tried to harm her and her team. One dog was injured.

King reported a similar incident 12 miles outside of Nulato, according to the press release. The incident resulted in the death of 3-year-old sled dog Nash, and the non-life-threatening injuries of two others.

King spoke with KNOM’s Emily Schwing about the incident:

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“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,” King said. “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.”

Click here for the full transcript of KNOM trail reporter Emily Schwing’s interview with Jeff King

Iditarod officials say King requested and received medical attention at the checkpoint.

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A suspect has been identified by the village police officer in Nulato, according to the release. Authorities are conducting an investigation.

Alaska State Troopers dispatch, via spokesperson Megan Peters:

AK16018057

Location: Nulato
Type: Assault

Dispatch Text:

On 03/12/16 at approximately 0243 hours, the Alaska State Troopers in Galena received a report that five miles below Koyukuk on the Yukon river, Aliy Zirkle, 46, had her dog sled hit on the side by a snow machine and the snow machine turned around multiple times and came back at her before driving off. Zirkle was not injured and one of her dogs was bruised during the incident. Zirkle had another contact with the same snow machine approximately 12 miles above Nulato. The snow machine revved up and was pointed at her and then finally left the area with no further injuries to Zirkle or her team. Another musher, Jeff King, was hit from behind by what appears to be the same snow machine approximately 12 miles above Nulato. One of of his dogs was killed in the incident and five of his dogs were injured. King reported that he was not injured. A Trooper is responding to Nulato to continue the investigation.

Iditarod officials say though this incident will greatly alter the race for both King and Zirkle, both plan to continue on their way to Nome.

"You're brave & brilliant & oh so, resilient" reads a handmade sign from Anne Neglaska in Kaltag. Aliy Zirkle was attacked overnight by a snowmachiner. (Photo by Emily Schwing/KNOM)
“You’re brave & brilliant & oh so, resilient” reads a handmade sign from Anne Neglaska in Kaltag. Aliy Zirkle was attacked overnight by a snowmachiner. (Photo by Emily Schwing/KNOM)

“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,” King said.

KNOM’s Emily Schwing was in Kaltag on Saturday when Zirkle passed through:

A small crowd of fans cheered as Aliy Zirkle drove her dog team up over the bank of the Yukon River and into Kaltag late Saturday morning.

Zirkle spent nine minutes in the checkpoint, sifting through drop bags. She grabbed beef snacks and salmon snacks for her dogs, switched out a led dog named Scout for another named Dutch and sped off.

“I’m not answering any questions,” she told a cameraman who works with the Iditarod Insider.

A local Kaltag resident handed Zirkle a homemade jar of canned salmon for her journey overland to Unalakleet. It’s an 85 mile stretch of historic trail – the longest on the Iditarod trail.

Zirkle tucked the jar in her sled and hugged a few Kaltag residents who had made signs in support of her race.

“She’s such an inspirational person. She’s such a strong lady to be going out there and to be enduring the Alaskan terrain, we are just so proud of her,” said Marisa Solomon-McGinty of Kaltag.

Anne Neglaska also made a sign.

“I wanted to support her after what she endured last night and just come out and show our love and support for our mushers. Bad enough the battle the trails and stuff and we just want to be here and let them know we love and support them,” said Negalaska.

Both women said they think Zirkle recognized their support.

“I got a kiss on the cheek from her,” said McGinty Solomon.

“We see it you know, the love for our mushers,” said Neglaska.

Before she pulled her snow hook, Zirkle took a moment to personally thank one of the kids in the village for his sign.

The mushers was clearly shaken, but her dog team did not hesitate to pull their musher down the trail.