Jenne Smith, who shared two children and a kennel full of sled dogs with four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey, was found dead Monday morning after rolling her ATV in the Fairbanks area, according to Alaska State Troopers.
She was 32 and had lived in Alaska for about six years, according to Mackey’s sister, Kristin Elieff.
A report from the troopers said Smith’s body was found near a friend’s residence on Resolution Road, which is where Mackey’s Comeback Kennel is located. “It appears Smith had rolled her ATV late on (Sunday), and became trapped under the vehicle,” the trooper report said.
Friends found Smith’s body on Monday morning, troopers said. The Steese Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched shortly after 10 a.m. and pronounced Smith dead at the scene, Steese VFD chief Scott Learned said Wednesday.
“She was last seen around 10:30 the night before leaving a residence in the area," Learned said.
Mackey, 50, posted about Smith’s death Wednesday on Facebook. He and Smith have two children together, Atigun, 4, and Lozen, 2.
“It is with great sadness that I say my friend, partner, the mother of my babies died in an ATV accident on Sunday night,” the post said. “The babies are safe, they were home with me at the time. Family and neighbors have been here helping us and Jenne’s parents are coming up today."
Elieff said Smith was alone at the time of the accident. She said it happened near the home Smith shared with Mackey.
Several family members have gathered at the Mackey home, she said, including Smith’s parents, Mackey’s father and stepmother and two other siblings.
“He’s holding it together one minute, and the next he’s not. It’s rough,” Elieff said of Mackey. “The kids are doing pretty good. There’s lots of family and neighbors here. ...
“We’re just trying to get through the days. Just one step in front of the other."
The couple had been together for more than five years, Elieff said.
Smith’s death comes five months after the Iditarod announced that Mackey had been retroactively disqualified from the 2020 Iditarod for testing positive for methamphetamine during the race. Mackey said at the time he planned to seek treatment.
“She was my rock during my rehab and recovery,” Mackey wrote Wednesday on Facebook. “She will continue to be with the kids and I as they grow into the amazing people she knew they would be.”
Smith grew up in Oregon and California, Elieff said.
Veteran Interior musher Kristin Knight Pace said on Instagram that Smith had big dreams and ideas.
“Everything Jenne wanted to do revolves around making people’s lives better,” she wrote. “I can’t believe she’s gone.”
Mackey is the only musher to win the Iditarod four straight times, a run that began in 2007. He also won the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race four straight times, and in 2007 and 2008, he won both races.
In recent years Mackey, a throat cancer survivor, has struggled with painful nerve damage and circulation problems in his hands. In 2019, he said Smith helped him care for his hands as he prepared to race.