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.
"One of my dogs was killed pretty much on the spot, and a couple others I gave first aid to the best I could and loaded them in my sled," King told CBS affiliate KTVA. "I kinda felt like a triage ambulance."
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 about five miles 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 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 three-year-old male, was killed. Crosby, another three-year-old male, and Banjo, a two-year-old male, received injuries and are expected to survive.
"It did not seem like an accident," King said in an interview with Iditarod Insider. "It seemed like an act of bravado and playing chicken. The river is a mile-wide, the packed trail is 40 feet wide. I had lights on, reflectors on my harnesses, sled bag, two lights on my person. It really felt like an intentional attempt to scare me."
King said he plans to continue in the race with the 11 remaining dogs on his team.
"The 11 dogs I have here appear unimpacted by the event and at this point, I'm going to continue up the trail," he said.
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.