Two Fairbanks dog mushers have been charged with reckless endangerment after guiding a Georgia couple on an ill-fated trip through the White Mountains in March, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports.
Darrell E. Harpham, 49, and Peggy Billingsley, 47, were hired as guides for the overnight trip north of Fairbanks. They led Todd Surloff, and his wife, Chontica Tanapornsakul, 20 miles into the recreation area and spent the night. They were mushing back to the trailhead the next day when the parties were separated.
Harpham mushed in front, reaching the trailhead first. Tanapornsakul became lost and stranded mushing behind him. Billingsley and Surloff traveled together, but when Billingsley sustained an injury, she sent Surloff ahead on a snowmachine. When he arrived at the trailhead, Harpham was there, but his wife was not.
Harpham took the snowmachine to find Tanapornsakul, whose dog team was stuck in a patch of overflow. He helped her across the ice and went to check on Billingsley. He later returned to find Tanapornsakul’s dog team stalled again. Although she pleaded with him to let her ride on the snowmachine, Harpham told her to keep going. When the dogs quit again, Tanapornsakul hunkered down in her sled bag with only a light parka and waited for help.
Surloff called the Alaska State Troopers at 8 p.m., who found Tanapornasakul “barely breathing and unconscious” about 5 miles from the trailhead. She was taken the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and treated for severe hypothermia and mild frostbite.
The guides have since blamed the mishap on the Georgia couple’s inexperience. Troopers said that the guides did not supply the couple with necessary survival gear and were unprepared. They have now been charged with reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.
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