Snowmobiler suspected in Iditarod attacks appears in court

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 14, 2016 12:41 AM

(Reuters) - A 26-year-old man arrested in connection with snowmobile attacks on two musher teams in Alaska's Iditarod dog sled race appeared in court via video on Sunday after reportedly admitting he was heavily drunk at the time of the incident.

One dog was killed and three others were injured in the incident, in which two veteran mushers told race officials that a person driving a snowmobile tried to drive the machine into their sled teams.

Bail for Arnold Demoski was set at $50,000 in Fairbanks District Court, where Demoski appeared by video hookup from a correctional center, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

But Magistrate Romano DiBenedetto said “If the state had asked for $500,000, I probably would have granted it."

Demoski told the Alaska Dispatch News he hit the teams while driving blackout drunk.

"I don’t care if people know if I was drinking and driving,” it quoted him as saying on Saturday before his arrest.

“I hope they can forgive me,” he said of the mushers. “I want this community to forgive me and I want my employers to forgive me, and hopefully I can get over this alcohol problem.”

The incident occurred about 12 miles (19 kms) from the Nulato checkpoint, about 582 miles (936 kms) into this year's 975-mile (1,570-kms) course.

A dog belonging to four-time champion Jeff King was killed when his team was hit from behind by a snowmobile, and two of his other dogs were injured, the Iditarod Trail Committee said.

"It did not seem like an accident," King said, adding that the driver never stopped or returned to the scene.

Driver Ailey Zirkle said she had been attacked in the same area by a person riding a snow machine who "repeatedly attempted to harm her and her team," race officials said. One of her dogs sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Police arrested Demoski on charges of assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and criminal mischief.

Some 85 mushers and their dogs set off on March 6 from the town of Willow, about a 90-mile (144-kms) drive from Anchorage. Of those, only seven have withdrawn from the race.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Michael Perry)