Skip to main Content

Long recovery awaits son of musher Martin Buser after Seattle car crash

  • Author: Chris Klint
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published January 27, 2016

Four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion Martin Buser's son Nikolai remains in treatment after being critically injured in a Seattle car crash, with Martin Buser mulling whether he will run this year's Iditarod.

Kathy Chapoton, Martin Buser's wife and Nikolai Buser's mother, said Wednesday that Nikolai has undergone "multiple procedures" since the collision. Hospital staff said Nikolai was listed in critical condition this week in Harborview's intensive care unit.

"The biggest concern was by the neurologist, because there was some pressure on his brain, and he has some tubing to relieve some of that and monitor that," Chapoton said. "He's had some internal injuries in his digestive system, and those seem like they are under control."

Doctors were also planning to work on a partial fix of damage to Nikolai's femur Wednesday.

"That's scheduled to be fixed today, so it's kind of one thing after the other," Chapoton said.

According to Chapoton, Nikolai -- named after an Iditarod checkpoint, like his brother Rohn -- has largely left Martin and Rohn's mushing tradition behind, although he still visits Alaska to help them out with the Iditarod's start.

After moving to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, majoring in biology and philosophy, Nikolai left the Pacific Northwest city for three years but soon returned. He currently works as a technician at a local laboratory.

"He graduated and he came to Seattle to go to (the University of Washington)," Chapoton said. "His heart was here in Seattle so he came back."

Chapoton said Nikolai was driving on Westlake Avenue in downtown Seattle when the crash occurred Friday morning.

Seattle TV station KOMO reported Friday that a passenger being transported by ride-hailing service Uber said his driver didn't see the other car, Nikolai's older-model Audi sedan, before the wreck. Nikolai's car was pushed into traffic and hit by two other vehicles, Chapoton said. In addition to Nikolai, five other people were injured in the collision.

In a Monday post on Martin Buser's Happy Trails Kennel Facebook page, family members said a first responder described trying to stabilize Nikolai at the scene as he was trapped inside the Audi.

"She said the top of the car came off real quickly but it took a long time to get rid of the metal around him after that," family members wrote. "She also said the heavy Audi was a curse but without that much metal around him, he would have died on the spot."

Since his hospitalization, his parents have been staying in a long-term waiting area at the hospital so they can be near their son and his "incredible" team of doctors. Despite doctors' predictions for "a long recovery," Chapoton said early indicators of his condition offer hope.

"They can't really predict how he's doing neurologically until he wakes up, because he's heavily sedated," Chapoton said. "He shows promising signs, because he can move his fingers and toes."

Nikolai has also received an outpouring of support, both from Alaska and his many friends in Seattle. A YouCaring fundraising page for Nikolai has already raised $11,000 to help cover Nikolai's medical expenses.

"We've heard from people all over the world; it's just incredible -- lots of Alaskans, tons of people," Chapoton said. "He was a member of a local fraternity, Zeta Psi; they've been here constantly in and out."

Chapoton chalked up the generous support to Nikolai's gregarious personality and his love of interacting with people.

"It's a testimony to his social relations, because he has tons of his friends coming every night and holding vigils," Chapoton said. "It's just wonderful."

Although Martin Buser signed up to join a near-record field of 86 mushers running the 2016 Iditarod before the December deadline, Chapoton said her husband hasn't yet made a final decision on whether he will join this year's Last Great Race. In the meantime, Rohn -- also entered in this year's Iditarod -- is still in Alaska, training both father's and son's dog teams.

"No set course has been decided to go or not to go -- he's hoping to go, but if not he'll stay here," Chapoton said. "It just totally depends on Nikolai's health."

For more newsletters click here

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.