FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A pickup truck collided with a loose dog team late Wednesday, killing two dogs.
The team of six dogs belonging to Yukon Quest musher Eric Nicolier was without a driver when it crossed the road at a designated crossing near Goldstream Creek and was struck at about 8 p.m.
Nicolier said his handler, Jaymie Ballantyne, lost the team as she was leaving his dog lot for a short run.
''I let my handler take some puppies and old dogs out,'' Nicolier said in his trademark Swiss accent. ''She's never lost the sled before and this time she lost the sled 200 yards from the kennel.''
Nicolier headed for the Ballaine Road crossing in his truck to intercept the dogs but arrived too late.
When he got to the scene, one of the dogs was dead, another was fatally wounded and three dogs were missing.
The truck's driver, 27-year-old Timothy Bristor of Fairbanks, told Alaska State Troopers he was driving toward town when the dogs and sled suddenly popped onto the road in front of him. Bristor, who phoned troopers after the accident, told investigators there was nothing he could do to avoid the dogs, trooper Walt Blajeski said.
Nicolier said Bristor was distraught when he talked to him.
''He told me it was the same thing as if he hit a person,'' the musher said. ''I told him he didn't do anything wrong unless he was going 100 mph.''
One of the three missing dogs showed up at Nicolier's house an hour later. Nicolier found the second dog Thursday afternoon. A third remains missing.
The accident could have been much worse for Nicolier, one of 34 mushers signed up to run the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Fairbanks next month. He had planned to include only one of his six dogs in his Yukon Quest team
Ballantyne was extremely upset after the accident, Nicolier said.
''She doesn't deserve this,'' Nicolier said, describing Ballantyne as a competent, hard-working handler who had taken teams out for him ''50 or 100 times'' this training season. ''I told her she was just out of luck because she was heading toward Ballaine Road.''
Nicolier, a 22-year-old carpenter from Switzerland who moved to Fairbanks 2 1/2 3/8 years ago, finished 16th as a rookie in last year's Yukon Quest.
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