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Man arrested after deadly Iditarod crash, claims he was drunk

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A man has been taken into custody after driving his snowmobile into two dog teams competing in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race early Saturday morning, killing one dog and injuring at least three others.

Mushers Aliy Zirkle and four-time champion Jeff King said they were attacked outside the village of Nulato, a community of 236 on the Yukon River, a little more than halfway into the 1,000-mile race to Nome.

The crashes killed one of King's dogs -- Nash -- and injured at least two others 12 miles outside of Nulato. One of Zirkle's dogs also was injured.

Alaska State Troopers say 26-year-old Arnold Demoski of Nulato is being held on two counts of assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and six counts of criminal mischief.

An apologetic Demoski told the Alaska Dispatch News that he had not intentionally driven into the dog teams, but he had blacked out while returning from drinking in another village.

"I don't care if people know if I was drinking and driving," Demoski told the paper. "I'm really glad [Zirkle] and [King] are OK, and I really feel sorry for Nash."

Race officials said Zirkle, currently running in third place, was approaching Nulato when a person on a snowmobile repeatedly attempted to harm her by turning around multiple times and making passes at her before driving off.

She said she thought the man on the snowmobile was trying to kill her.

King was behind Zirkle -- 12 miles from Nulato -- and said the snowmobile nearly missed him before smashing into several of his dogs from behind at high speed.

"I don't know how he could have not known I was there," King told the Alaska Dispatch News. "I think I was more of a target."

King, who said he would continue the race, told the paper that he found a piece of the snowmachine and turned it in to authorities in Nulato.

"As soon as I woke up this morning, I heard about what happened," Demoski told the paper. "I went to check my sno-go. The front panel was missing. I knew it was me right off [the] bat. I called the [village public safety officer] right off, told him it was me. I told him I'd do whatever they want me to do. I'll tell the troopers whatever they want to know. I feel really bad for what I did."

Nash, a 3-year-old male, was killed almost instantly, King said. Crosby, another 3-year-old male, suffered a leg injury, and Banjo, a 2-year-old male, was knocked unconscious but is expected to survive.

King said he loaded the dogs onto a trailer attached to his sled after giving first-aid to the two that survived.

"It literally took as long as a snowmachine takes to go 80 mph the length of a dog team," King told the Alaska Dispatch News. "It's a millisecond. ...

"He didn't turn around. He didn't slow down."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.