Severe Alaskan storm wipes out 6 mushers from Iditarod dog sled race

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Three additional mushers running at the back of the pack pulled out of this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race after accepting help during a massive ground storm.

Friday’s fierce storm forced a total of six mushers to scratch after calling for help in the storm which carried high winds. Two of those mushers needed rescue after the trial just miles from the end of the nearly 1,000 mile (1,609 kilometer) race through Alaska.

Race steward Mark Nordman was told Friday night that Sebastien Dos Santos Borges, a rookie from Chazey-Bons, France, and KattiJo and Jeff Deeter, a married couple from Fairbanks running separate dog teams, had agreed to join help and had scratched themselves, a Saturday afternoon statement said. from race officials.

Dos Santos Borges and the Deeters all accepted assistance between the White Mountain and Safety checkpoints, which are just 22 miles (35 kilometers) from the finish line in Nome.

A White Mountain search and rescue team on snowmobiles helped the mushers to a shelter at the Nome Kennel Club, where they weathered the storm.

When conditions improved, Iditarod volunteers were able to help bring the three dogs and their dog teams to Nome, where the dogs will be checked by veterinarians.

All three mushers were in contact with Nordman while at the shelter hut and reported that their teams were in good health.

Earlier on Friday, two mushers had to be rescued and a third scratched after receiving help returning to a checkpoint.

Rookie Gerhardt Thiart, originally from South Africa and now living in Cheboygan, Michigan, activated his distress beacon because of the storm and a leg injury. A passerby on a snowmobile ran into him and took him to White Mountain. He was eventually transported to Nome for an evaluation of his injury.

Musher Bridgett Watkins of Fairbanks was able to contact her family in Nome for help. Regardless of this call, her husband Scotty had left Nome with others on snowmobiles to help mushers in the storm and he located her. She was taken to White Mountain Clinic for evaluation and eventually airlifted to Nome, 124 kilometers away.

Another musher, rookie Sean Williams of Chugiak, also pulled out late Friday after receiving help getting back to White Mountain from someone on a snowmobile.

The world’s most famous sled dog race began for 49 mushers on March 6 north of Anchorage. The trail took them over two mountain ranges, along the frozen Yukon River and then along the Bering Sea ice on the west coast of Alaska.

Since then, 12 mushers have retired, half of them on Friday.

Eureka’s Brent Sass won the race on Tuesday. He had his own encounter with bad weather a few miles from the finish line in high winds blowing in from the Bering Sea. He fell off his sled and lost track.

He thought he was going to have to hunker down, stop with his dogs to wait for the weather to improve.

“I didn’t see anything,” he said in a post-race interview.

“The dogs, the only reason we got out of there was because they trusted me to get them back on track. And once we got back on the trail, they went a hundred miles an hour, and we were able to stay on the trail and get in here. It was a lot of work,” he said.

There were still four mushers on the trail Saturday night, heading from White Mountain to safety.


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