A storm on the ground forces two Iditarod mushers to rescue

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FILE – A competitor crosses Willow Lake during the restart of the Iditarod Trail sled dog race on March 6, 2022 in Willow, Alaska. Two mushers at the back of the peloton had to be rescued in separate incidents from the race on Friday March 18, after winds from a severe storm on the ground caused conditions to deteriorate, race officials said . (Loren Holmes/Anchorage Daily News via AP, file)

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Two mushers at the back of the peloton had to be rescued in separate incidents at the Iditarod Trail sled dog race on Friday after winds from a severe storm on the ground caused conditions to deteriorate, officials said. the race.

One of those rescued was a musher who had a dangerous encounter with a moose before the race started.

Both rescues took place on Friday morning as the mushers made the final push towards the finish line in Nome.

Gerhardt Thiart, who was approaching the Safety checkpoint, 35 kilometers from Nome, activated his distress beacon because of the storm.

Edward Stang from a nearby village was in the area on his snowmobile and found Thiart and his team of dogs. Thiart had injured his leg.

Stang, unaware that Thiart had activated an emergency beacon, transported him to the nearby community of White Mountain. There, a helicopter picked up Thiart and flew him to Nome, where he was undergoing an evaluation Friday evening, according to a statement from the Iditarod.

Around the same time, another musher, Bridgett Watkins, called a family member in Nome asking for help. A search and rescue team from White Mountain was dispatched, but in the meantime Watkin’s husband, Scotty, located her. He and four other people on snowmobiles left Nome to help mushers during the storm.

Watkins was taken to White Mountain, where she was evaluated at a local clinic. She was then flown to Nome and was with her family.

In February, Watkins was training near Fairbanks when a bull moose began trampling his dogs and wouldn’t stop even after emptying his gun into the moose. She was able to call for help and a friend showed up and killed the moose with a high powered shotgun after the moose seriously injured four of her dogs.

The White Mountain search and rescue team, along with an Iditarod snowmobile crew guarding the back of the race, were taking the two teams of dogs to Nome, where race vets will evaluate them on Friday, said said Iditarod officials.

The two mushers had to abandon the race because of rescues.

The nearly 1,000 mile (1,609 kilometer) Iditarod kicked off March 6 near Willow and took mushers into the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness. Brent Sass won the race on Tuesday.

Of the 49 mushers who started the race, eight withdrew.

Nine mushers remain on the trail, all gathered at the White Mountain checkpoint, 124 kilometers from Nome.

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