Child killed after stepping into dog yard in Napaskiak

James Halpin

A sled dog attacked and killed a 3-year-old girl after the youngster wandered into a Napaskiak yard while playing Thursday evening, prompting a relative to shoot and kill every adult dog in the yard, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Krystal Brink, of Kasigluk, was found dead in the yard after other children went inside and she was discovered missing. Troopers said the girl had been visiting relatives in Napaskiak, a community of about 430 on the east bank of the Kuskokwim River southeast of Bethel.

Krystal's great uncle, 28-year-old Fritz Larson, said she had been out playing with other girls for about an hour. When the other children came in, the family noticed Krystal was missing and started looking for her.

Thinking she might be playing near the dogs next door, Larson said he went toward the yard and saw a pink coat on the grass. As he approached, he noticed a skinny young male mutt chained on a post in the yard was chewing on a diaper, he said. Then he saw the girl's body on the ground nearby.

"I went nuts. I lost it," Larson said. "I was hollering at the dog. I remember hollering at the dog. I grabbed the baby and I pulled her away from the dog. I picked her up and I saw her face."

Krystal had been bitten in the face and on the head, he said. Blood on her arm and clothes made it appear that the dog had caught her arm as she tried to push away, he said.

"My sadness turned to rage," Larson said.

Larson said he went to the dog owner's house to "do something stupid" but the man -- his uncle, Raymond Steven -- wasn't there. He brought the girl home. His brother, Joe Larson, grabbed a shotgun out of a boat, went over to the dog yard and shot every adult dog there, he said.

"I'm not going to have this ... happen again. So he shot all the dogs," Larson said. "The owner was (complaining) about his dogs. It was like, 'Well, one life for another.' "

The dogs were for sprint mushing, said Steven, 48. The one that attacked Krystal was a couple years old but he'd just gotten him a few months ago. The dog went by "Blue Eye."

Steven was at a cousin's place taking a steam bath when he heard gunshots coming from his yard. Six of his seven dogs were dead, he said. Troopers had said earlier that all seven dogs were shot to death.

Steven said that a 6-month-old male black lab had not been shot.

He said the child should not have been left unattended but that he agreed with shooting the offending dog. He didn't agree with the decision to shoot five innocent dogs, however.

"I was so mad but I'm getting my head cleared," Steven said. "I got to get new dogs anyway. I'll try to get me another dog. I'll put them in another place."

Troopers in Bethel got the call at 7:35 p.m. and went to the village, where they stayed investigating until 3 a.m. Friday, troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said. Troopers learned there were seven dogs tied up in the open yard, and the child had passed by all the animals except the last one, she said.

The dogs' owner told troopers he did not want to press charges, but the investigation was continuing.

"It was a pretty emotional situation," Ipsen said. "It's a tragic event. We're dealing with it accordingly."

Krystal's body was sent to Anchorage for an autopsy. Her death has been hard on the family, Larson said.

"We loved her greatly. She was one of our favorites," he said. "She was always happy, always smiling."

The dog's head was being sent in to be tested for rabies by the Department of Health and Social Services, spokesman Greg Wilkinson said.

Fatal dog attacks in Alaska are fairly uncommon, according to DHSS numbers. The agency documented nine fatal attacks on people between 1991 and 2002. Wilkinson said there have only been four reported since then, including Krytal's death. All have involved children under 6.

The state epidemiology section reported that 288 people were hospitalized because of dog bites from 1991 to 2002. More than half of the patients were under 9 and a full third were under 4.

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