Mushers from Minnesota lose sled dog in accident

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2008 - 9:58 PM

The animal died when a snowmobile hit the team during a snack break in the Iditarod.

Lorne, who died in the Iditarod race

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Death has struck another mushing team from Minnesota competing in the Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska.

The team led by Jennifer Freking of Finland, Minn., was struck by a snowmobile Sunday night on the Yukon River, killing three-year-old sled dog Lorne and injuring Aries, according to an e-mail posted on the website for Freking and her husband and fellow Iditarod participant Blake Freking.

Despite the setback, Freking said she will push on.

"After a good rest and reflection, we decided [that] as long as the rest of the dogs were healthy and ready to go, we would continue to Nome," where the race ends.

Jennifer Freking said she is hopeful of a full recovery for Aries.

As for the dog that died, she wrote, "Lorne had been an incredible member of the team the whole race. She had eaten well and performed 100% the whole way ... I was so very proud of her.

"The accident was the worst nightmare imaginable. We are so lucky neither Blake or I was struck and more dogs were not injured. I thought we had just witnessed half my team killed at the time."

Cindy Elkins, Jennifer's sister, said that the Frekings were "stopped snacking and resting the dogs" at about 10 p.m.. "They had heard the snowmobile coming for quite some time, and he just didn't slow down."

Elkins, who lives in Champaign, Ill., and helps with the couple's website, said the Frekings wear head lamps, and they would have provided the only illumination at the time.

"It's actually not that unusual," Elkins said. "Dog teams all over the nation live in fear of snowmobilers. There have been many instances of snowmobiles killing and injuring sled dog teams."

In Jennifer Freking's web posting, Jennifer Freking added that "if we were not traveling together as we are, it would be harder to go on. But we have each other for support and company. We just want to travel the rest of the trail with no thoughts of competition at all.''

Blake Freking is 54th in the field as of this morning. Jennifer is 55th.

Over the weekend, Duluth musher John Stetson dropped out of the famed race after one of his dogs died. Zaster, a 7-year-old male, died Saturday from a suspected case of pneumonia.

As for others with Minnesota connections in the race:

Ken Anderson, who graduated from Forest Lake High School and moved to Alaska in 1993, is fifth; Paul Gebhardt, who grew up near Glencoe and moved to Alaska in the 1970s, is seventh.

Joe Gans, who graduated from Chaska High School in 2003 and now lives in Alaska, is 60th; Jake Berkowitz, who grew up in St. Paul and now lives in Michigan, is 61st; and Richard Savoyski, who grew up in Chanhassen and now lives in Alaska, is 75th.

The front-runners take about 10 days to make the trek, so the winner could cross the finish line under Nome's arch sometime today.

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