^ Arnold Demoski. Photo via Facebook.
The Nulato, Alaska snowmachine driver alleged to have terrorized two mushers in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and killed a dog by running it over has now been taken away to jail, according to his mother.
Before his arrest, 26-year-old Arnold Demoski told the Alaska Dispatch News that he must have hit the dog teams in an alcoholic blackout. He claimed that after some sleep, he got up and then noticed the cowling missing on his snowmachine, and figured out what happened. He then turned himself into authorities on Saturday.
“He’s up at the jail house,” his mother, Janice, said by telephone shortly after noon. “They picked him up. They say he is going to get arraigned tomorrow. They just picked him and they were taking him into Fairbanks.”
Arnold has twice before been arrested for assault. He was convicted in 2008. He has had other problems with the law.
Janice said it remains unclear exactly what happened along the Iditarod Trail in the dark of the early morning Saturday. “I have no idea,” she said. “They say it was an accident, so I believe it was.”
Mushers Jeff King, a 59-year-old, four-time Iditarod champion from Denali Park, and Aliy Zirkle, a 46-year-0ld, three-time runner-up in the race, have both said they thought Arnold was targeting them. King estimated Arnold’s machine went through his team at “80 mph,” killing King’s dog Nash on impact, and breaking the leg of another animal.
The Demoskis are part of a large extended family in the Interior. Janice said Rudy Demoski, an Iditarod icon, is her husband’s first cousin. Rudy, now 70-years-old, ran the first Iditarod in 1974 and finished fourth. He grew up in a time when sled dogs were a way of life in Alaska.
Most of the dogs are gone from rural Alaska now, and the snowmachine has taken over. Among some villagers, the Iron Dog — a 2,000-mile race along the Iditarod to Nome and then back to Fairbanks — has become more popular than the Iditarod.
The record field in the Iron Dog this year featured 15 racers from rural Alaska and eight rural teams of two from Bethel, Galena, Kotzebue, McGrath, Nome, Takotna and Unalakleet. The Iditarod was down to three rural Native mushers from Bethel, Kotzebue and Akiak.
The problem for rural mushers is largely economic. It is prohibitively costly to maintain a kennel in village Alaska, and while no one there wants to say anything bad about the Iditarod — an Alaska institution — some villagers privately says the race feels more and more like an invasion and less and less like part of their world.
Some in Nulato have speculated that Arnold was just trying to scare the mushers, misjudged and hit them. Some are blaming alcohol, which gets blamed for so many things in rural Alaska.
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