ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A man suspected of intentionally driving a snowmobile into teams of two mushers near the front of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was arrested Saturday in a Yukon River village.
Arnold Demoski, 26, of Nulato was arrested on suspicion of assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and six counts of criminal mischief.
A message left for Demoski at his home was not immediately returned. He told the Alaska Dispatch News that he had not intentionally driven into the dog teams of Aily Zirkle and Jeff King, but he had blacked out while returning from drinking in another village.
The crashes killed one of King’s dogs and injured at least two others 12 miles outside of Nulato. One of Zirkle’s dogs also was injured.
Iditarod officials at first reported King had been injured. But the four-time champion said later the snowmobile had missed both him and his sled when it crashed into his dogs at high speed from behind.
Zirkle, 46, who finished second three times from 2012 to 2014, was mushing from Kokukuk to Nulato, a run of less than 20 miles (32.19 kilometers) on the Yukon River, when she was hit, race marshal Mark Nordman said Saturday.
The snowmobile hit the side of Zirkle’s sled about 5 miles (8.05 kilometers) out of Koyukuk, turned around multiple times and came back at her before driving off, Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said by email.
The snowmobile reappeared 12 miles (19.31 kilometers) out of Nulato. The driver revved up and was pointed at Zirkle before leaving, Peters said.
One dog on her team was bruised. Officials described the injury as non-life-threatening.
King, a four-time Iditarod champion, was behind Zirkle and fared worse. When King reached the vicinity, he was struck from behind by the snowmobile, and at least three of his dogs were hit.
Nash, a 3-year-old male, was killed. Crosby, another 3-year-old male, and Banjo, a 2-year-old male, received injuries and are expected to survive.
The race leader early Saturday afternoon was Brent Sass, who left the village of Kaltag at 8:20 a.m.
Zirkle dropped one dog in Nulato. She reached Kaltag at 10: 44 a.m., and after a nine-minute rest, left again in second place.
Current champion Dallas Seavey left Kaltag at 11: 24 a.m. in third place. His father, former champion Mitch Seavey, was in fourth place.
This story has been corrected to show the positions, records of Mitch Seavey and Dallas Seavey.