Defending champion leading in Alaska's Iditarod race

Defending champion leading in Alaska's Iditarod race

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 4:31 p.m. ET

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) Defending champion Dallas Seavey was leading Sunday in Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, gunning for his fourth win in the nearly 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) contest, with his father among his closest rivals.

The younger Seavey left the checkpoint at the coastal village of Shaktoolik, 171 miles (275.19 kilometers) from the Nome finish line, mid-Sunday morning. His father, two-time Iditarod winner Mitch Seavey, was the second musher to reach the village. But second out of the village was earlier race leader Brent Sass, who left nearly an hour after Dallas Seavey.

Meanwhile, a 26-year-old man was set to appear in court Sunday afternoon following his arrest Saturday on allegations he intentionally drove a snowmobile into the teams of two other top mushers, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King. One of King's dogs, Nash, was killed and at least two other dogs were injured.

Arnold Demoski of the checkpoint village of Nulato (noo-LAH-toh) has said he was returning home from a night of drinking when he struck the teams.


The incident prompted the Nulato Tribal Council to issue a statement Saturday, saying it was ''disturbed and saddened'' by the incident and committed to working with authorities on the matter.

''The tribe has a deep respect and admiration for the `Last Great Race on Earth' and the dedicated dog mushers and their beloved dogs,'' the council wrote. ''It is with great regret and sadness that we offer our condolences to Jeff King for the loss of his dog Nash. We pray for the speedy recovery of the other injured dogs.''

Demoski was arrested on suspicion of assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and six counts of criminal mischief.

Demoski told KTUU-TV that when he woke up Saturday morning and heard what had happened to the mushers, he checked his snowmobile and realized he had done it. The snowmobile was missing a part and had rust-colored stains, he said.

Demoski said he doesn't remember the collisions, which the Iditarod described as apparently intentional attacks.

''I just want to say I'm sorry,'' he said.

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, according to race marshal Mark Nordman.

The snowmobile hit the side of Zirkle's sled about 5 miles (8.05 kilometers) outside 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) outside of Nulato. The driver revved up and was pointed at Zirkle before leaving, Peters said.

Demoski told KTUU that he did not return to harass Zirkle. He said he wanted to check to make sure she was OK.

One dog on Zirkle's team was bruised. Officials described the injury as non-life-threatening.