ANCHORAGE — 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.
Demoski told the Alaska Dispatch News that he did not intentionally drive into the dog teams of Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King but had blacked out while returning from drinking in another village.
The crashes killed one of King’s dogs and injured two others. One of Zirkle’s dogs also was injured.
Iditarod officials at first reported that King had been injured. But the four-time champion said later the snowmobile had missed him and his sled.
Zirkle, 46, who finished second three times from 2012 to 2014, was mushing from Kokukuk to Nulato, a run of less than 20 miles on the Yukon River, when she was hit, race marshal Mark Nordman said Saturday. The snowmobile hit the side of Zirkle’s sled, turned around multiple times and came back at her before driving off, Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.
The snowmobile reappeared 12 miles outside of Nulato. The driver revved the engine and had the vehicle pointed at Zirkle before leaving, Peters said. One dog on her team was bruised.
Zirkle reached Nulato and told a race official that the incident had left her shaken. “I’m really bad. Someone tried to kill me with a snow machine,” she said on a video posted to the Iditarod Insider Web page.
King, a four-time Iditarod champion, was behind Zirkle. When King reached the vicinity 12 miles outside of Nulato, his dog team was struck from behind by the snowmobile, killing one of his dogs and injuring two. King remained in Nulato early Saturday afternoon.
The race leader early Saturday afternoon was Brent Sass, who left the village of Kaltag at 8:20 a.m.
Zirkle rested four hours in Nulato and dropped one dog before heading back onto the Yukon River with 14 dogs in harness. She reached Kaltag at 10:44 a.m., and after a nine-minute rest, left again in second place.