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Snowmachine kills team dog on Yukon

Craig Medred
Iditarod musher Jeff King tips his sled as he rounds a corner at the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Lance Mackey comes into the the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008 followed by a group of village children.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Lance Mackey feeds his team at the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Jeff King checks into the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Koyuk villagers Fannie Nassuk and two of her children, Harald, on her shoulders and Tara, wait for Iditarod mushers Lance Mackey and Jeff King at the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Lance Mackey pulls his team out the deeper snow next to the street at the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Lance Mackey looks back for Jeff King as he is about to come off the Norton Sound ice and enter the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod sled dog musher Jeff King pulls his team back after his snow hook pulled out and the team moved forward as he was parking at the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Koyuk villagers wait for Iditarod sled dog mushers Lance Mackey and Jeff King at the village checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Lance Mackey struggles to pull off his wind pants at the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
12-year-old Cecila Nassuk holds a sign with the mileage to Nome as Iditarod musher Jeff King feeds his team at the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Koyuk villagers Michelle Kavairlook and Katie Hannon look at a photo they made of themselves after Iditarod sled dog mushers Lance Mackey and Jeff King came into the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News
Iditarod musher Jeff King describes the run into the Koyuk checkpoint Monday, March 10, 2008.
Photo by BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News

A dog in the team of Iditarod musher Jennifer Freking from Finland, Minn., died Sunday evening after being hit by a snowmachine near the village of Nulato, according to the Iditarod Trail Committee and Freking's Web site.

Freking and her husband, Blake, a fellow Iditarod musher, arrived in Nulato on Monday about 4:25 a.m. and left at 5 p.m. They were in 56th and 57th places.

Reached by telephone, a checker in Nulato said Iditarod race offical Rudy Indemuhl would not allow the Frekings to speak to the press, but Iditarod director of public relations Chas St. George said Iditarod officials in Nulato told him the Frekings did not wish to discuss the incident.

"They're not wanting to talk to anybody about the situation," St. George said. "We're respecting their decision."

According to a press release from the Iditarod, "at approximately 10 p.m. (Sunday) evening, a snowmachiner ran into Jennifer Freking's team on the Yukon River near Koyukuk (upriver from Nulato). Unfortunately, the incident caused the death of a 3-year-old female named 'Lorne.' "

"The accident was the worst nightmare imaginable," the Frekings said in a statement posted Monday on their kennel's Web site, www.jedeyesleddogs. com.

A note posted on the site said that on Sunday night "Jen and Blake were parked, snacking the dogs on the river between Galena and Nulato when a snowmachine drove into their team going about 40 mph. Lorne is dead and Aries is badly injured. We're grief-stricken for the loss of sweet, loving, hardworking Lorne and praying for the healing of sweet Aries. Aries is being flown to Wasilla Vet Clinic.

"We are so lucky neither Blake nor I was struck and more dogs were not injured. I thought we had just witnessed half my team killed at the time."

The Frekings have been running together most of the race.

The posting did not say whether the Frekings were stopped in or alongside the busy snowmachine trail that runs from Galena to Nulato or whether they had any lights on at the time.

A spokesman at the Wasilla Veterinary Clinic said the clinic had not taken in any Iditarod dogs hit by snowmachines. A spokeswoman there said All Creatures Veterinary Clinic was on-call for emergencies Sunday night and that the dog might have been taken there, but a spokeswoman at All Creatures said they hadn't seen an Iditarod dog hit by a snowmachine either.

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By CRAIG MEDRED
cmedred@adn.com