Alaska State Troopers say a 28-year-old Healy man cited last week after hitting a dog team on the Denali Highway was the second in a group of snowmachiners passing in the opposite direction.
The dogs were part of five-time Iditarod winner Dallas Seavey’s kennel but another musher on a training run with Seavey was driving the sled, Seavey and troopers said last week. The collision killed two dogs and seriously injured three more, according to social media posts from Seavey. Four others suffered minor injuries, he said.
Austin Gibbs was cited for “negligent driving” in the collision, troopers said.
Gibbs was driving the second of four snowmachines traveling together, troopers spokesman Tim DeSpain said Monday.
The first snowmachine driver passed the dog sleds without issue but Gibbs struck the team, DeSpain said. The collision occurred on a relatively straight section of the road that comes after a curve, he said.
“It has been indicated that the snow from the machine in front may have hindered vision, however, whether the snow obstructed Gibbs’ vision at the moment of the collision has not been substantiated,” DeSpain wrote in an email. He did not answer additional questions.
The collision occurred at around 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 and was reported at about 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 18 by someone “associated with the mushers” who was not at the scene of the collision, DeSpain said.
Seavey posted widely read comments on social media accusing the snowmachine drivers of exhibiting signs of intoxication. But DeSpain said alcohol was not substantiated as a contributing factor in the crash due to the “timeframe that the incident was reported to troopers, and lack of supporting evidence.”
According to Alaska statute, someone is guilty of negligent driving when they drive a motorized vehicle in “a manner that creates an unjustifiable risk of harm to a person or to property and ... actually endangers a person or property.” The crime is proven when an accident occurs, but also if someone takes evasive action to avoid an accident. Negligent driving is considered a lesser offense than reckless driving.
The collision occurred near Mile 118 of the 135-mile highway, a popular area to run dog teams including for those training for races like the Iditarod or Yukon Quest.
Seavey in a Facebook post described the sled dogs killed as 5-year-old Olaf and 3-year-old Oreo, both males. He said one of the three injured dogs required additional emergency veterinary care due to complications from amputation.